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French weekly magazines review

Is Bouteflika still fot to run a country? Has Al-Sissi got something to hide? Why have two French ministers fallen out? Who's out to smear Christiane Taubira? And how safe is RyanAir?


We begin with Le Nouvel Observateur’s coverage of the ailing health of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. He is now back home following an 80-day stay in a Parisian hospital because of a vascular-cerebral accident. The weekly reports that the 76-year-old leader, who has been in power since 1999, has not been seen in public since 7 August.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

The official line is that he is recovering, but the magazine learned from a top Algerian official that he can’t govern in his present condition, confined to a wheelchair and completely disconnected from reality. The weekly says Bouteflika’s condition is causing goose bumps to the “king-maker” military which had been banking on a fourth Bouteflika term in 2014.

Le Point has a profile of Egypt’s military chief, General Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, the man who overthrew president Mohamed Morsi and ordered the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The journal describes the rise to power of the 58-year-old Al-Sissi as an enigma, recalling that he was ex-president Hosni Mubarak’s intelligence chief and that he already bore the nickname “general” when he was growing up as a kid in a staunchly religious family. Le Point says there may be some shady moments in Al-Sissi’s life  since he instructed close aides not to speak about his private life.

Le Nouvel Observateur says the general is being regarded as a defence against anarchy and Islamist dictatorship by some, while others brand him the gravedigger of the revolution and the democratic aspirations of the people. For the weekly, by multiplying the number of Muslim Brotherhood martyrs, Al-Sissi is hardening the determination of the jihadists who see themselves as the last firewall against dictatorship.

Marianne examines the conflicts in Egypt and Syria, arguing that there is no reason to put a lid on "inconvenient truths". For Marianne, while the Middle East is up in flames, the West's often-Manichean perceptions can only distort the reality. The conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya have proved that some of today’s liberators will be tomorrow’s executioners.

Le Nouvel Observateur also takes up the controversial question of prison reform, which is causing a split within the left-leaning coalition in power. It has to do with a plan by justice minister Christiane Taubira to tackle prison overcrowding.

The weekly reports that an acrimonious exchange between Taubira and Interior Minister Manuel Valls over repeat offenders has left President François Hollande mediating between the judiciary and the police.

Taubira has been the target of a smear campaign on the internet since May, according to Le Canard Enchaîné. The satirical weekly reports that a letter allegedly written by a French mother who claims that Taubira’s son is in jail for murdering her son is being ciirculated.

Le Canard says that the original Spanish version of that same letter was actually addressed to the Peruvian guerrilla organisation Shining Path after they killed the woman's son. The weekly sees the hoax as a glaring example of the filth which is flowing on the internet. It found out that Google’s search engine still carries traces of the smear, noting that if you type “Taubira” what comes up on top of the home page is “Taubira, Taubira son in prison and Taubira son, murderer”.

RyanAir is losing its nerve, according to Le Canard Enchaîné. The weekly reports that the low-cost carrier has censored the Facebook and Twitter accounts of its pilots’ organisation after it questioned the airline’s flight safety conditions.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

Le Canard learned that one of its flight captains was fired for discussing a RyanAir directive on the illegal use of kerosene on a British television programme. The investigative report exposed the emergency landing in Spain of three RyanAir planes after they reportedly ran out of fuel.

Le Canard says an internal survey of pilots found out that two-thirds of RyanAir’s pilots are scared to report problems of security to the airline’s authorities, while up to 89 per cent of RyanAir’s staff deplores the airline’s lack of transparency on flight-safety matters.

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