Gossip v privacy for the powerful in France

Posted by on Jun 05, 2011 | Comments Off on Gossip v privacy for the powerful in France

Three weeks after the charges of sexual assault in a New York hotel, repercussions from the Strauss-Kahn affair continue to reverberate across France – as a row over new allegations against an unnamed political figure shows.

The opposition Socialist party is still assessing the damage to its presidential prospects following the humiliation of its one-time champion, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, due back in court on Monday.

Commentators agonise over the embarrassment to France’s international reputation, or rail against the supposed iniquities of the American justice system.

But by far the biggest impact has been on the debate over the public’s right to know.

Outsiders almost unanimously take the view that the Strauss-Kahn affair is proof of a shameful dereliction of duty on the part of French journalism.

DSK’s predatory attitude to women was well-known to the Paris media, the argument goes, but went unreported because of a tacit collusion with the political elite.

“Start Quote

Luc Ferry


[I recall] a former minister who was busted                                                                                               in    Marrakech in an orgy with little boys”

Luc Ferry, speaking on Canal Plus chat show

Here in France, that argument is conceded – but only up to a point.

Most people agree that national newspapers should take a tougher line towards authority – and that the web of interests linking journalists and politicians is harmful to democracy.

But there remains an extremely resilient strand of thought, which resists any move towards an information free-for-all a la Anglo-Saxon.

In the view of the overwhelming majority, the right to privacy is sacrosanct.

And even if the Strauss-Kahn fiasco shows the risks of taking this principle too far, this is preferable to the opposite: a moralising, tabloid culture which (for the French) is the ghastly reality in the UK and the US.



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