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Eye on France: More departures from Macron's top team

One of the president's men: Ismaël Emelien, on his way out of the inner circle.
One of the president's men: Ismaël Emelien, on his way out of the inner circle. Martin BUREAU / AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron has lost another of his key advisors with the resignation of Ismaël Emelien, who has been linked to the so-called “Benalla Affair”. And the latest on Monday's story about the Twitter group "Laughing Out Loud", which has seen several high-profile male journalists suspended from their current posts over online harassment.


Another one bites the dust. Ismaël Emelien, who has been with Macron since the now-president's early days at the Economy Ministry, and who is currently a special presidential advisor, is officially leaving to promote a new book on progressive politics.

But, as Le Monde points out, Ismaël is also inconveniently tied up in the so-called Benalla affair. The special advisor admits having provided copies of police videos to former presidential bodyguard, Alexandre Benalla, with a view to getting him off the hook for his part in beating up a May Day protestor while wearing police gear.

Ismaël Emelien can also be heard in several audio recordings broadcast by the news site Mediapart, assuring Benalla of his personal support. None of this is good for your image. Especially since giving police videos to a suspect is far from legal.

Emelien insists that he’s leaving to promote his book, and that’s that. He’s not resigning. Any other interpretation of his decision to depart from the presidential team is false.

The official line from the Elysée Palace supports the claim of a normal departure, enforced by a potential conflict of interest. The move, according to an official communiqué issued Monday night, has been planned for a long time. Emelien’s co-author, David Amiel, is also quitting his job as presidential advisor.

Right-wing daily Le Figaro notes the same story, saying that the president will now be obliged to reorganise his personal team.

Le Figaro says the official technocratic term for this sort of staff turnover is "natural recycling". Presidential staff work very hard, are under constant pressure and they don’t last very long. The unofficial term is burn out.

Tough work if you can get it

Macron lost his chief speech-writer, Sylvain Fort, in January. Fort explained that he had simply reached the end of his rope and wanted his life back.

Stéphane Séjourné, another long-time member of the inner circle, is giving up his job as Macron’s political advisor to run the ruling party’s European election campaign. He’s unlikely to get his life back for a few more months.

The captain of the Macron team, Patrick Strzoda, is also on the way out. And so on down the ranks of the presidential entourage, with Le Figaro reporting that several senior members of specialist advisor teams, notably in Culture and Middle Eastern affairs, are already looking forward to a life after politics.

The crucial thing for the president, according to the right-wing daily, is to use the ongoing reorganisation of his various collaborators to get rid of the Benalla bunch – those who have been damaged by the fall-out from the bad bodyguard affair. And make it all look very voluntary, rather than a rush of rats deserting a sinking ship.

More tears for the lads at Laughing Out Loud

And in a footnote to our story on Monday about the very unfunny League of Gentlemen who ravaged the lives and careers of several women journalists with their Twitter group called LOL, or Laughing Out Loud, we can confirm that at least six of the ring-leaders have been suspended by their current employers, pending internal investigation of the claims against them.

The daily paper Libération, which launched the investigation into the plague of online harassment, says this could be the occasion for journalists to examine their consciences about sexism in their tiny, enclosed world.

Libé suggests that, in a profession dominated by men, French journalists need to ask questions about the abuse and the balance of power, about inequality of treatment, and other failures based on brutal sexism.

The Paris paper has, itself, suspended two journalists, former members of the so-called LOL League.

Not the first symptom of a structural problem

In an earlier case of online sexist abuse, the Huffington Post (which is owned by Le Monde) has already sacked three employees for their participation in what the site called “a sexist, racist and homophobic online rant, notably used to insult their female colleagues”.

There is a structural problem in our profession, with the latest figures from the commission which issues identity cards to French journalists showing that, of 470 editors or media directors, 372 are men.

The weekly magazine L’Obs recently looked over its own performance for the past three months and found that women accounted for only 31 percent of the faces identified by name on its pages. And L’Obs is rare among top-flight French media in that it is directed by a woman, Dominique Nora.

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