French press review 20 September 2012
Should Charlie Hebdo have the right to blaspheme? Do GM foods seriously damage your health? How come the Socialist government wants to endorse Sarkozy's version of the European fiscal pact? And are the British press two-faced over the Duchess of Cambridge's chest?
The decision by French weekly satirical paper Charlie Hebdo to publish new caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed makes front-page news in both Le Figaro and Libération.
The main headline in right-wing Le Figaro reads "France on alert", the report explaining that diplomatic missions and French schools in 20 countries have been put on a top security footing, against a background of fears that there will be further protests against the US film Innocence of Islam and an additional reaction provoked by the Charlie Hebdo drawings.
The fact that an official protest planned for Paris on Saturday has been banned by the authorities on public order grounds has also given rise to fears that there could be violence here in France.
Since the debate centres on the key republican right to freedom of expression, Libération wonders if that includes the right to blaspheme.
Libération, you may remember, provided office space and other assistance to the Charlie Hebdo team last November, when the satirical magazine's headquarters were firebombed.
This morning's Libé editorial accepts that the team at Charlie are annoyed at having spent nearly a year working in a state of siege but the left-wing paper wonders if it was wise to choose just this moment to pour oil on an already inflammable situation. The courts are available to anyone who feels that his or her beliefs have been publicly belittled or ridiculed.
Already Charlie Hebdo has been formally accused of "incitement to hatred" and of causing "verbal offence". Let us hope, says Libé, that those who are legitimately angry will allow the courts to decide on the rights and wrongs of this difficult and divisive case.
The daily Aujourd'hui en France wonders how we can avoid eating genetically modified food.
The reason the question is significant is that a French team has just published the results of a two-year study of the effects of GM food on laboratory rats. Those fed on genetically modified maize died younger and developed more cancers than rats on an GM-free diet.
That's very bad news for rats. And not great for humans either, since GM genes are already deeply entrenched in the food chain, having been fed to farm animals and thus already in our meat, eggs and poultry. The golden rule regarding animal feed seems to be "cheap is best", and genetically modified products certainly cost less than normal ones.
The growing of the maize variety known as NK603 is banned across Europe because of suspicions about the dangers it poses to human health. But NK603 can be freely imported into France and fed to the cattle, sheep and chickens that end up on our dinner plates.
Communist L'Humanité continues its campaign against the European fiscal pact, which the French government started debating yesterday.
The problem is that the document under consideration differs not a whit from that agreed by right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, despite left-wing president François Hollande's promises to renegotiate key terms. Nothing got changed, which makes it difficult for the Socialists, now a majority government, to grin and bear proposals that they found unreasonable when they were the opposition.
The Communist Party daily sees the proposals as a total capitulation to the demands of the banks for more austerity, which will mean more unemployment, more hardship and an even slower pace of recovery. The Communists want a referendum on the proposals and will launch a series of protests in support of that call at the end of this month.
Le Monde is amused at the scandalised reaction by sections of the British press to the publication by a French magazine of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Imagine, says Le Monde, that papers which routinely devote page three to annonymous naked girls are incensed at French gall in showing their princess with her kit off. Not to mention the English tabloid press's penchant for phone-tapping, royal baiting, scams to trap the great and the good in disadvantageous positions.
The question is, says Le Monde with great and appropriate dignity, why is it right for The Sun to publish pictures of Prince Harry's bum but not right for Closer to publish pictures of Kate Middleton's chest? Why, indeed?