French press review 2 December 2010

As Interpol pursues its arrest warrant for Julian Assange and the retailer Amazon bows to American pressure and ceases to host the website, here in the French press as everywhere else, it’s still Wikileaks Week.



Le Monde, the centrist paper of record, was one of the five papers worldwide to get a cache of the leaked diplomatic cables ... so guess what it's leading with today. Under particular scrutiny this morning are the cables from the US Embassy in Paris that describe President Nicolas Sarkozy and his relations to American power.

The paper's headline is "Sarkozy and Washington, a mutual fascination", and there are also details from the cables on riots in the Parisian suburbs in 2007, as well as the case of the French student Clothilde Reiss who was imprisoned in Iran on spying charges last year. Le Monde doesn’t miss the opportunity to remind us that Prez Sarkozy considers these continuing revelations "the last word in irresponsibility", according to one of his spokespeople.

Liberation, the left-leaning daily, is also giving Wikileaks a lot of coverage, although, as with much of the French press, the attitude isn't wholly positive. Oddly Umberto Eco, the Italian writer and semiotician, pops up this morning to give Libé his views. That's because Libé has today handed its editorial reins to 50 philosophers to bring us analysis and criticism, or academic beard-stroking depending on your viewpoint, on the day's besetting issues.

Eco takes a rather more cheery tone than many of his colleagues, pointing out that several of the key Wikileaks revelations -- particularly those about diplomats spying -- are already well known to anyone who reads thrillers or watches films, and, I quote, "only hypocrisy prevents us from saying so".

There's also concern across the French press about the electoral impasse in Cote d'Ivoire, with Libe's philosopher-eds giving it a double-page spread under an imposing photo of vote sacks under military guard outside the electoral commission. The Catholic daily La Croix has a story on the many Ivorian voters in France who say they were deprived of the chance to cast their ballots in last Sunday's vote because of technical incidents. Each side, of course, blames the other depending on who they voted for.

Also doing the rounds in France this morning is a story about Ségolène Royal, the Leftist politician who lost the presidential election to Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. She has recently announced that she'd like to take another crack at him in 2012 when election time comes round again, despite no longer actually being at the head of her own party -- she was beaten to the leadership of the socialist party by Martine Aubry in 2008.

This morning's story reveals that Ms Royal's house outside Paris has been broken into for the third time in four years, but despite two rooms being ransacked, nothing was stolen. Libération's story uses the rather arch word "visité" to describe the break-in – she was, in inverted commas, “paid a visit”. This is because Royal's house was also broken into during her 2008 campaign, an event she described at the time as a "political affair", to the outrage of Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, which felt it was being not-so-tacitly accused of something it, obviously, denies strongly.

And there's plenty of coverage in today's papers of a subject that tends to hog European headlines this time of year: it is, of course, the snow. Under the latest onslaught of white stuff, road haulage in France has been impeded, some flights at airports cancelled and half of all Eurostar trains to and from England suspended.

According to Le Figaro, the French power grid has even been endangered by the surge in heating requirements. Le Fig is also the first paper to cave in and print a picture of a child building a snowman on its front page ... no doubt the first of many to come as winter bites.


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