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French press review 29 January 2015

"People start believing in the media again", a controversial package of reforms and concerns over Greece bailout dominate the front page stories of French dailies.

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There's good news for journalists on the front page of this morning's catholic paper, La Croix. Under the headline "People start believing in the media again," we learn that, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, nearly three-quarters of the population now describe themselves as having a serious interest in the news. Sixty per cent feel that the country is well served by its laws governing freedom of opinion, and 65 per cent feel the media did a good job of reporting the attacks and their aftermath. Eight out of ten people questioned said they felt the news coverage had enabled them to understand the events, with a majority agreeing that journalists had avoided adding to inter-community tension.

Slideshow Charlie Hebdo

The best news of all is that radio remains the most used source of information, showing a five per cent increase since last year's media survey, with social media, perhaps surprisingly, showing a much smaller increase.

In an environment where there are now so many sources of instant, undigested and unverrified information, the traditional media have a clear chance to strengthen their position by analysing and sifting the masses of material available, and offering an authoritive reading of an often complex reality.

More seriously, the catholic daily recalls the dangerous drift away from objectivity which marred much US media coverage of the Bush admistration in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Public confidence in the American media reached a peak at the very period when their independence was most in question. Because it was considered unwise to criticise President Bush in the aftermath of such a huge national tragedy, journalists failed to ask the right questions on the logic of a punitive war in Iraq. We're still living with the legacy of that failure.

The French Economy Minister, Emmanuel Macron, has a lot on his plate at the moment, trying to haul his monumental law to get France working again through the National Assembly, despite right-wing and far-left opposition, and some sniping from the ranks of the socialist rebels. No fewer than 3,194 ammendments have been proposed. So Manu Macron probably won't have time to read this morning's communist L'Humanité, and that's possibly just as well.

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Because the front page ofL'Humanité accuses the unfortunate man of right-wing tendencies. Macron's proposed legislation has been described by President François Hollande as "the law of the century," but it might be a bit too early for that. It's certainly an important document, with many far-reaching implications for the future of the French economy and, thus, for the future of the socialist government. It's probably the most important law of this legislation's five-year tenure. And that explains why so much behind-the-scenes work has been done by ministerial councillors, advisors and lobbyists, to make sure that the political opposition is kept on side, and that the majority of journalists are assured that all is, and will be, well.

Unfortunately, the communist paper is not having any of this conciliatory guff. They think the law is a major step backwards, quoting one opponent as saying the debate has been ill-prepared, the legislation rushed, and there's a danger that parliament will, ultimately, be by-passed on some of the more crucial provisions which the government will impose without consideration.

And the article ends, as it began, with a dig at the overworked minister. Macron has been described as a deal-maker rather than a street-fighter, which might seem much to his credit. But L'Humanité says, in fact, he's a shop-keeper, and his left wing priciples are up for sale. Ouch!

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, is in street-fighting form on the front page of conservative paper, Le Figaro. The saliva had barely dried on the new Greek Prime Minister's promise to avoid confrontation with his country's numerous creditors, before Junker was stamping his hat into the floor, fulminating about fair play and the need for respect. The fact is that the Syriza leader in Athens has already started spending money he never had, raising the minimum wage and reinstating thousands of sacked civil servants. His programme is conservatively estimated to require 12 billion euros, and there's not a brass drachma left in the Athens coffers. On Wednesday the Greek stock exchange lost nine per cent, while the nation's banks saw their net worth slashed by 27 per cent.

In the forthcoming arm wrestle with Europe over his nation's borrowings, Alexis Tsirpas may not have a leg to stand on.

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