French press review 4 November 2013

Three of the six national dailies to hand give their main front page stories to the tragic killings of our two journalist colleagues, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, in Mali at the weekend.

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For Le Figaro, Saturday's murders mean that France will now have to plan for a longer and more serious military involvement in Mali than originally planned. The right-wing paper takes a swipe at President François Hollande, saying that the original French intervention in Mali, to prevent a fundamentalist takeover last January, was the single positive action initiated and successfully managed by the Socialist president. Now, says the Figaro editorial, even that success falls under the tragic shadow cast by the killing of Dupont and Verlon.

Dossier: War in Mali

What are the 3,000 French troops doing in Mali? How long will they remain there? What are the prospects for a political solution to the situation in the north of the country, where the interests of those fighting for Touareg independence clash with those of various criminal groups, and of others calling for a fundamentalist islamic administration?

Worse, suggests Le Figaro, if it turns out that the weekend assassinations were carried out by a group either seeking French captives to claim a ransom, or in revenge for an earlier ransom which was mis-shared, then the political implications of French contradictions on payments to kidnappers will be dramatic.

Catholic La Croix contrasts the joy associated with the return, last week, of the four French hostages from Niger, with the weekend tragedy in Mali. The Catholic daily also points to the near impossibility of stabilising a region larger than France and riven by complex rivalries. And, let's not foget, parliamentary elections are due in Mali later this month.

Libération says nothing less than press freedom is at stake, not just in Mali, but worldwide in difficult situations. Forty-five journalists have lost their lives already this year. As French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius pointed out yesterday, there was a time when the status of journalist gave protection; now, in many parts of the world, a press card can turn you into a target.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Battles in Brittany, French house prices, and the European Central Bank are the other front page stories.

According to communist L'Humanité, trade unions in western France feel that the energy generated by the recent campaign against the so-called ecotax was actually commandeered by the bosses, who turn out to be the only real winners.

The price of buying property here in France has increased by an average of 10,000 euros over the past twelve months. But what will buy you a broom cupboard in Paris will get you a quite respectable apartment in the western city of Rennes, or a house on the outskirts of Strasbourg, in the north-east.

The European Central Bank's interest rate policy is forcing down inflation, says business daily Les Echos, but the downside is record unemployment and a rapid loss of ground by the euro on world markets. Greece, Portugal and Spain won't survive the current regime much longer, warns the financial paper.

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