In most modern industrialized countries there is a shortlist of newspapers that, according to general consensus, belong in a top tier of journalistic excellence. In France until recently I would have placed both Le Monde and Le Figaro in the shortlist. However, Le Figaro’s editorial policy on Russia has been gradually changing to the point that I wonder whether the paper understands the damage it is doing to its own credibility.
Owned by a French arms company with close ties to President Nicolas Sarkozy, and tremendous growing interests in Russia, Le Figaro has been increasingly soft on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, reading like tendentious sycophancy. This became clear this week as they welcomed Putin to Paris with a flattering page one photo along with his French counterpart, François Fillon under the headline “Putin in Paris to negotiate some 20 agreements“.
In the large spread inside, the paper fawns about the wonderful versatile warshipFrance is selling to Russia to the tune of 3/4 of a billion dollars.Another article covers the tandemocracy and Putin’s grip on power thatwill last to 2024 – yes, a stable regime that we can and must learn towork with! Then, on the oped spread there is a big piece by none otherthan Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller, headlined “Gazprom to EDF: Welcome to South Stream!”
In stark contrast, Le Monde’s coverage, as reported here, was firmly denouncing Putin’s record on the rule of law, and the other major French newspaper, Libération, headlined: “Putin in Paris, Murders in Moscow“, with a two-page spread inside focusing on Magnitsky, Markelov, Estemirova, rather than gas and gunboats.