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France

French press review 16 January 2015

media

The fall-out from last week's Charlie Hebdo killings continues to preoccupy most but not all of this morning's French newspapers.

Right-wing Le Figaro leads with a story on how the battle against terrorism is moving online. Countries want to control the internet, the paper says. From Paris to Washington there is a push to tighten control over what's being called "cyber-jihadism". Naturally, web users fear that freedom of expression online will be curbed.

The paper compares what it calls the epic of the internet to the conquest of the American Wild West; a new land to be explored, often by pioneers without faith or laws. A gold rush for thousands. The key to its success could be said to be self-regulation, says Le Figaro. Controls have been resisted with the support of the champions of freedom of expression.

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

It's taken bloodletting in the real world to show what's happening in the shadowy corners of the net, what the paper calls "terrorism's secret laboratory" - proselytising, recruiting, transmitting orders, buying weapons.

No more Mr Nice Guy, is the paper's message. The time has come for democracies to police the Wild West. Not to stifle freedom, like autocratic regimes, but to impose the rule of law and punish outlaws. France and Europe must have their say because the Wild West is here.

Juxtaposed with this on Le Figaro's front page is a report on what it calls a "massive police operation in Belgium", just next door to France, in which two alleged jihadists were killed and a third arrested.

The front page of left-leaning Libération trumpets eight inside pages exploring what led to the Charlie Hebdo killings.

Though they claimed links with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State armed gorup, the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly, who are held responsible for the killing of 17 people, grew up and were radicalised here in France.

Libé retraces what it calls their "murderous journey". Evidently, the brothers and their accomplice first met in prison, which often seems to function as a kindergarten for aspirant jihadists. Not at all what was intended by locking people up.

The communist daily L'Humanité reports on the funerals yesterday of several of the Charlie Hebdo journalists killed in last week's attack. "Their lives - stronger than death," the paper declares.

It considers the arrest of the black comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, who said this week that he felt like "Charlie Coulibaly". This a reference to and a twisting of the slogan "Je suis Charlie", adopted by millions in France and elsewhere to show support for freedom of expression and opposition to terrorism. Coulibaly, it should be remembered, was killed in a shootout with police at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris, along with four of the hostages he was holding.

L'Humanité says Dieudonné's remark isn't a humorous aside - rather it betrays his chronic anti-Semitism. The comic has what the police call "previous" in this regard. In the past his stage acts and DVDs were notorious for tasteless Jew jokes, including jibes against the victims of Nazi concentration camps. It remains to be seen whether he will be prosecuted for this latest outburst.

Dossier: Ebola outbreak 2014

The Catholic daily La Croix makes an effort to look on the bright side. "Ebola - the epidemic recedes." The fight against Ebola is progressing in the three African countries affected, notably in Liberia, as new vaccines are produced and tested.

Fewer people are infected by the virus, the paper says. To date, Ebola has killed almost 8,500 people, almost all in west Africa. The fear was that the death toll would rise relentlessly so reports of progress are welcome. Still, La Croix also carries words of caution from the United Nations special envoy for Ebola, David Nabarro, who says, even now, it would be dangerous to lower our guard.

Le Monde considers the France which it says "is not Charlie".

Not only members of the country's Muslim minority, who, the paper says, cannot understand the caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, who was represented in mocking cartoons which the killers claimed they were avenging. Not Charlie also, says Le Monde, are Jews, Catholics and members of the radical left. They are people who did join the millions who marched last weekend in a show of national unity and commitment to freedom of expression. They are as appalled by the killings as anyone. At the same time, they are uncomfortable with the insolent mocking of religion.

On its opinion pages, Le Monde carries comments by a respected representative of each community. The consensus is that the satirical weekly does not represent France. Many would argue that freedom of expression and the separation of church and state is one of the core values of the French Republic. It is a debate that looks likely to continue.

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