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29 April: Muammar Gaddafi’s ghost bites back

Today’s instalment of Marlière Across La Manche continues with a short survey of media coverage of the French elections from good to terrible, with a few self-publicists thrown into the mix.

Philippe Marlière
29 April 2012

After Marshall Pétain’s cameo earlier this week, Muammar Gaddafi’s ghost has invited himself to the campaign. Mediapart, a respected news website, has revealed today that Gaddafi’s regime had agreed to fund Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign to the tune of 50 million euros. Mediapart produced a 2006 document in Arabic which was signed by Gaddafi’s foreign intelligence chief. The letter referred to an “agreement in principle” to support Sarkozy’s campaign. All major media have mentioned the story. Will they hold the president to account? I wouldn’t hold my breath. Most French journalists are tame and deferential to powerful politicians. The most servile of them, smelling blood, have started to be a bit more combative of late. But this is too little and too late.

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Mediapart has been by far the best news media of the campaign. This is investigative journalism at its best; a rarity in the French media landscape. French newspapers and news websites are essentially opinion media: few facts and investigation on the ground, but endless punditry. The news website was launched in 2008 by Edwy Plenel, a former Le Monde editor-in-chief. This is quality journalism proposing longish and extremely well-researched pieces. They take politics seriously and publish interesting and meaningful stories. Mediapart is a paying site (well worth the money!) backed by enthusiastic subscribers who can run their own blog in its free access section. The worst media of the campaign, by contrast, are the ever declining Le Nouvel Observateur and Libération (both close to the Parti Socialiste), who have spent a lot of time attempting to rubbish Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s reputation with ludicrous allegations, when the Left Front candidate was credited with about 15% in the polls.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn (also known as “DSK”) gave an interview to The Guardian yesterday. Although he did not believe that he had been set up, he claimed that the Sofitel events were “shaped by his political opponents”. Sarkozy declared that he should keep quiet and “spare the French his remarks”. I am shocked to find myself in agreement with Sarkozy. Last May, DSK was only days away from announcing his candidature to the Parti Socialiste primary election which he would most certainly have won. The economically ultraliberal (and despicable) Strauss-Kahn would have represented the Left against Sarkozy. We were narrowly spared this apocalyptic scenario.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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