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French press review 23 January 2018


President Emmanuel Macron spent yesterday selling France to the world. But should the praise for the country's increased attactiveness to investors go to his predecessor, François Hollande? What's wrong with the French prison service? And why you should have faith in the traditional media.

President Emmanuel Macron has been busy selling France as the place for business and investment. That's the top story in the print edition of Le Monde.

It follows yesterday's meeting, in the sumptuous surroundings of Louis XIV's palace at Versailles, between Macron and the bosses of 140 big-name multinationals.

With Toyota and Facebook already signed on, France hopes to attract at least three billion euros of additional investment over the next five years.

Tomorrow the French leader will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he's expected to present his view of globalisation to an audience of international movers and shakers.

US shutdown suspended

Le Monde's electronic edition gives the honours to the US federal shutdown, which has been temporarily suspended, meaning that normal service can be resumed until at least 8 February. At the heart of the whole affair is the wrangle over the children of illegal immigrants, people that the Trump administration now wants to expel.

Former president Barack Obama created a special legal status for the "Dreamers", the 690,000 offspring of illegal immigrants, allowing them to work and study in the US. Trump overturned that status last September and has given Congress until March to find a permanent solution. Even his own Republican Party is divided on the issue.

French prison system facing chaos

Right-wing Le Figaro looks at the problems facing the French prison service.

There have been protests by prison officers for the past two weeks, obliging the police to take over the maintenance of order in seven penitentiaries.

Prison officers are not allowed to go on strike but they do have the power to protest by, for example, unlocking cell doors to allow prisoners unlimited and uncontrolled access to open spaces in their establishments. This is what has been happening since two prison officers were attacked by a detainee 10 days ago.

Le Figaro says there are two basic aspects to the problem: French prisons are overcrowded, and there are no special rules for the detention of the estimated 2,000 radical Islamist prisoners, many of whom are known to be extremely violent. Their numbers are boosted every month by the addition of those jihadist fighters arrested on their return from Syria and Iraq.

The basic pay for prison staff in France is 1,540 euros per month.

Praise where praise is due

Left-leaning Libération follows Le Monde in devoting its front page to foreign investments and the ongoing charm offensive by President Macron.

Libé's headline reads "Thanks Hollande," and the small print explains that, of the 3.5 billion euros already invested and 2,200 associated jobs, the real credit should go to the last president, François Hollande, under whose wing the increasing attractiveness of France as a home for business investment was firmly established. At a considerable cost to the then-president's political popularity.

Libé's editorial points out that billion-dollar investments are not decided in an afternoon at Versailles, they are carefully planned over years. So Macron will have played his part, in his capacity as one of Hollande's chief advisors and then as economy minister.

So we're looking at a continuous effort, says Libé. With just one crucial difference: when the Socialists were in charge, they tried to spread the benefits widely, causing panic and pain among the rich. Macron is following a different route, offering the bosses the best of both worlds.

You can count on us

Catholic La Croix is happy to report that, in this era of fast, furious and fake news, the average French listener/reader/viewer continues to regard the traditional media - radio, press and TV - as most worthy of confidence.

According to a recently published opinion poll, confidence is increasing in both the written press and television, with only one French person in every five considering information carried by the internet as credible.

These statistics mask a huge distinction between the older and well-educated parts of society, who tend towards the traditional media, and a younger less well-educated majority, who choose the internet as their primary source of information.

Eighty percent of those questioned would like to see some form of legislation to control fake news.

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