Friday, January 21, 2011

Sarkozy, Bush : the Imperial Presidencies.

French president Sarkozy has never been shy of his admiration for the U.S. and for G. W Bush, and he has often called - wrongfully, in my opinion - "the American" because of his professed admiration for the U.S. (here or here) - its energy, optimism and weak trade unions.

But there is something else Sarkozy liked about G. W. Bush, it is his handling of journalists. Indeed, there is an eerie parallel between the current French government and the Bush administration in their illegal use of the power of the executive to monitor and intimidate journalists and their sources, which basically aims at killing investigative journalism.

France's most respected newspaper Le Monde has accused the French counter-intelligence agency (La Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur or DCRI) of illegally monitoring their journalists and informant calls in violation of the law.
The Sarkozy government actually identified and sacked one advisor to the justice minister who had supposedly been leaking to Le Monde information about the Bettencourt scandal after obtaining access to the phone bills of the journalists who revealed the scandal. The French newspaper filed a complaint as this is directly in violation of the "news source Secrets Act", (here) recently voted in France:
The law is absolutely clear,” read a Le Monde editorial: the legislation, it quoted, says that “the confidentiality of journalists’ sources is protected in the exercise of their mission to inform the public.” (MacLaens)
This week, however, the Office of the Prosecutor (i.e. le parquet), which is supervised by - and thus highly dependent on - the French Department of Justice (Ministère de la Justice) announced no action was taken about their complaints as the offense was not penalized :
Le parquet de Paris a classé sans suite la première plainte déposée par le quotidien Le Monde pour violation du secret des sources dans le cadre de l'affaire Bettencourt, a-t-on appris vendredi auprès de son avocat.
Le parquet, qui a rendu cette décision mardi, a notamment fait valoir que le délit de violation du secret des sources n'était pas pénalement sanctionné, a déclaré Me Yves Baudelot, à l'AFP. (AFP)

Now Le Monde has brought a civil suit which will be examined by an investigating judge (juge d'instruction) who can conduct investigations into serious crimes or complex enquiries independently and outside the province of the executive branch. (AFP)

This is not the first major scandal of the Sarkozy presidency (see the Karachigate for instance) and you might say that all governments are tempted to go astray in their use of this awesome power given by the executive. But one thing that Bush and Sarkozy have in common is that this abuse of the Executive power is backed by their view of politics and society, and there autocratic tendencies of bush and Sakrozy is nothing new (see here, here, and here or even here)
This is in line with the conservative beliefs that a good society can only function if the people accept that unquestionable authority, obedience (by the people), and punishment (for disobeying authority) prevail over cooperation, transparency, and the rule of law, as the law (i.e. 'judges') limits the power of the Executive and therefore its efficiency. In other words, they deny a tenet of democracy : check and balances, and they believe that direct universal suffrage give them the authority over anything and anyone. It is almost within a limited term, they were given the power to act as tyrants.
Of course, leftist governments have also abused their power (Mitterand in France or Clinton to some extend), but those abuses was not backed up by their claimed ideology whereas conservative presidents emphasize values that undermine democratic principles.

This is why, I guess I'll never be a true conservative.

NOTE: Reporters Without Borders establishes a ranking of countries in terms of their freedom of the press and as you can see on the map below, the countries where press was the most free were Finland, Norway, Ireland, Sweden and Denmark, whereas France and the US rank similarly (in gray-blue) in the 2nd -less free- group. (Wiki)

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