Sunday, March 18, 2007

How Sarkozy Attempts to Indimidate the Press!

Apparently conservative contender for the French Presidential elections and current Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy is entrenched in the old idea that the media can be controlled by politicians, an idea prevalent amongst French presidents from De Gaulle to Chirac.

Sarko did not like the headline of left-wing newspaper Libération which read “Sarkozy's Tax on wealth: the suspicion”.

The “suspicion” was that Sarkozy may have undervalued his asset in order to pay less of France's special tax on the wealthy, l’Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune (paid by individuals whose net worth is higher than €760,000, or about a million U.S. dollars). The same “suspicion” has been raised with the socialist candidate by the way.

But in Sarkozy’s case, it went a bit further. According to some French press (here, here, and here) Sarkozy lashed out when he called - not the editor but the main stockholder of the newspaper, Edouard de Rothschild to express his displeasure. He is reported to have added that “this would certainly prevent the daily from finding people to finance it”. [Libération has had financial problems in the last few years]. The exchange between the two men was allegedly tough, and the presidential candidate is even said to have been angry enough to be rude, calling Libération “a shitty newspaper”.

Now, interestingly, this happened about 2 weeks ago and it really did not make the headlines in France.

But is it a good sign that a politician who seeks the highest office in the nation, a man who may become the “guarantor of the institutions”, and a man who is still the Minister of the Interior should try to intimidate the owner of a newspaper?

In this particular case, it is unlikely to change anything – Sarkozy’s phone call is reported to have “made Edouard de Rothschild laugh a lot”. Certainly, de Rothschild can afford to laugh it off but still, this is really not a good sign, and it is undoubtedly something that should have made the headlines.

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