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French press review 22 April 2010


Today’s papers – well, that is their websites as the newspaper distributors are on strike – discuss footballers and prostitutes, flags and bottoms, family benefits and acne, and of course the usual other subjects: burkas and right wing conspiracies.

Le Figaro first, and the Minister of Justice, Michèle Alliot-Marie, has asked that a criminal enquiry be launched into an outrage over the use of the French flag. In a photography competition in Nice, the winner of the ‘politically incorrect’ category showed a picture of a man wiping his bottom with the Tricolore.

After an outcry, the picture was taken off the winners list and in agreement with the photographer, Frédéric Laurent, Fnac (the French electronics store who organised the competition) decided not to put it on display in Nice's Museum of Naive Art with the other entries.

Alliot-Marie said it was an inadmissible and intolerable act. A March 2003 law rules that outrages against the Tricolore are punishable with a 7,500 euro fine if they are under the jurisdiction of public authorities. It's not certain if this outrage falls under the jurisdiction of this law because it was organised by a shop. However the Justice Minister says that if the law turns out not to cover it, it ought to be changed.

Le Figaro also reflects on Franck Ribéry, the France and Bayern Munich player. He was sent off during the Champions League first leg semi-final on Wednesday night.

Le Figaro asks if there is a link between his red card and the recent problems he's been having with the police. Ribéry has been questioned about relations with an underage prostitute. He kept his head down and was well protected by Bayern Munich, but he's only human, says Le Figaro. Being criticised in public, having his potential recruitment by Real Madrid called into question and even insulted by some oddballs has hit a nerve. It leaves traces. Indelible ones. Was there truly a link, asks Le Figaro? I guess we’ll never know.

Le Monde also profiles the midfielder. Franck Ribéry, it says, has never been Mr Everybody. Although it’s been a role for which he has some talent. He greets strangers with, “How’s it going, cousin?” and has a grand way of being incapable of modulating his language – calling the Togolese the Tongolese for example. The media have enjoyed the story of the lad from a poor area of Boulogne-sur-Mer coming to dine with kings (or at least going to exclusive night clubs on the Champs-Elysées).

Talking of the Champs-Elysées, the state mediator Jean-Paul Delevoye, has expressed concerns about the government’s new determination to ban the burka.

“I don't know what we'll do about the Saudi women who come shopping on the Champs-Elysées,” he says, according to Le Monde.

The government has decided to go ahead with the ban despite a decision by the Constitutional Court in March that it could be unconstitutional. The socialist mayor of Lyon, Gérard Collomb, has been discussing the problem with the police force who are worried about going up to women in markets and commanding them to remove their burkas.

Communist website, l’Humanité, has an article called “Spain faces its old demon”’. It’s about Judge Garzon, a Spanish judge who is being attacked for investigating Franco-ist crimes and reviving old memories. It’s become a hysterical political debate. At a university in Madrid all generations have come to rally in support of the judge holding banners saying, “Impunity for Franco-ism. No thank you.” L’Humanité says the judge has, perhaps in spite of himself, become a symbol of the battle for truth.

In the online publication Rue 89, there’s a story about Sergeant M. This foreign legion soldier is up before a tribunal for shooting between the legs of a subordinate in anger. The subordinate had killed a guard at a crossroads, having misunderstood a command. A year and three operations later, the man has lost his left testicle and is handicapped for life. The foreign legion’s hierarchy waited two months before reporting the event and Sergeant M is still in active service. Judgement is expected on 11 May.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that family benefits will be suspended in case of truancy. The measure has existed since 1959 but it hasn't been enforced since 2006.

A parent's association representative is quoted in left-leaning Libération, saying if children don't go to school it's not because their parents use benefits. It's not the responsibility of families but of the school system. She calls Sarkozy’s plan ineffective and unjust and said therapy would be better as the reasons pupils don’t go to school are apparently fear of violence, school phobia and acne.

Finally, some sobering news from the Le Figaro: 70,000 French people are still stranded abroad because of the ash cloud.

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