French press review, 9 June 2010

Prostitutes and gambling, polygamy and con-artists. Get ready for another day in the French press.


Gambling and online betting were authorised in France on Tuesday, just in time for the World Cup. La Croix leads with the story, and game addiction associations are worried. The regulation was specially brought in to combat fraud, swindling and addiction and was launched simultaneously with an online campaign that has video clips accompanied by the caption "stop getting yourself plucked", or in English: stop bleeding yourself dry.

Catholic La Croix comes into its own with this story. Religion offers sound advice about falling under the spell of easy money, it says. Money we make must not be the result of chance but of work, says Brice Deymié, pastor of the Reformed Church in France. It quotes the catechism of the Catholic Church before pointing out that the Koran calls gambling an abomination and the work of the devil and Judaism puts it on the same level as theft.

Libération takes on Facebook, which it says is losing members after a recent polemic about how the site invades personal privacy. Leaving the social network is, Libération says, a must, though still a difficult thing to do. The journalistic research of the day: Apparently, if you type “comment quitter” into Google, just behind “how do you leave a lover without causing them pain?” you get “how do you quit Facebook?”

That's thinking outside the box from the Libération journalist. Useful statistics: there were 450 million members of Facebook in February with an average 130 friends each.

Communist L'Humanité leads with what it calls the electricity racket. The government wants to give a quarter of Eléctricité de France's nuclear energy production to rivals. Electricity bills will increase by 25 per cent in five years. The right to energy is flouted, says L'Humanité, illustrating the point with an electricity meter floating in a dark sky surrounded by lightning bolts

It also runs a feature on Cameroon and false agents who lure children with the dream of becoming a footballer. There is an interview with one man who arrived in Indonesia in 2006 only to be thrown into jail for having an irregular visa.

The English have decided finally to copy the French, says Le Figaro in its story of the day. Exactly 375 years after Richelieu, they are creating an institute dedicated to the protection of the language. The Queen's English Society has decided to create formal codes of practice; one of them is worried that the globalisation and popularisation of English will end up creating irreconcilable discrepancies between English as it is spoken in the cradle of its birth and in its former colonies. Look what's happened to Latin, warns Martin Estinel. The French are lost in Spain, the Italians don't understand the Portuguese. You start with spelling centre with an er on the end, and who knows where you could end up.

Libération and Le Monde run long pieces on Liès Hebbadj and one of his wives. Le Monde’s headline says “The many lives of Liès Hebbadj". This father of 14 (soon to be 15) embodies an extraordinary number of French controversies. He was accused of polygamy by the interior minister Brice Hortefeux and now is before a court accused of benefit fraud and of secretly hiring undocumented workers in his halal butcher’s shop. One of his wives is Sandrine Mouleres, who was accused of driving in non ideal conditions – that is to say, she was wearing a niqab.
Le Monde has an investigation into the Gaza blockade. On the front page, it has a photograph of a Palestinian carrying a sack through a tunnel under Gaza’s border with Egypt.

In an editorial the centrist daily mocks the squabbling children of Europe. The idea of political unity – economic governance on a European scale – provokes a chorus of stutters, hiccups and quarrels. The leaders of Europe are, according to Le Monde, incapable it seems of putting the common interest first. What Europe needs, it says, is a council where you can raise controversial questions like: is it really in everyone’s interests that Germany adopt a dramatic austerity budget when we need it to stimulate demand.

Finally to prostiutes; Libération has gone to Johannesburg, but not for the World Cup. It has a double page spread about the city’s brothels. There are interviews with two prostitutes. One, who used to be a drug mule with her 60-year-old mother, says she doesn’t like black people because positive discrimination in their favour is the reason she has to be a prostitute. She adds that she makes tourists pay double.

The owner of one night club says that during the World Cup the police will turn a blind eye to prostitution. Libération calls it a tacit agreement, pointing out that Washington, the country’s main donor in the fight against Aids, threatens to cut financial aid if prostitution is legalised. Rather, hypocrisy reigns. An official in the Ministry of Justice says the situation is under control. “What about the 25 brothels just in the centre of town?” protests Libération. The spokesman is horrified. You must tell the police! He cries.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning