The “Canard Enchainé” : A Flashback at previous political scandal revelations

Alexandre Carcel

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The “Canard Enchainé” covered revelations of Fillon scandal, revealing that the presidential candidate wife received more than €900,000 from National Assembly funds or taxpayer money. This led to the campaign embrittlement, Fillon is no longer the favorite to win the French presidency in May 2017 according to Ifop polls.


It’s not the first time the « Canard » use its independent democratic power to reveal information about politicians misbehavior. By exposing financial political scandals, the satirical newspaper, created on September 1915, gained recognition. A few examples of the newspaper revelations over the years.

Credit : Esther Vargas (Flickr)

1979 : Bokassa’s diamonds

Credit: Mark Morgan (Flickr)
Credit: Christian Pierret (Flickr)

The “Canard Enchainé” published a document copy, signed by the emperor of Central African republic Jean-Bédel Bokassa. The satirical newspaper got access to the document after the  Operation Caban (September 1979), the French military intervened to overthrow repressive Bokassa emperor. The document showed that in 1973 the emperor requested his National Diamond Bank to release a 34 karats plate to offer them to the French Minister of Finance Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. This gift was valued for almost 1 millions French franc (FF) by the newspaper.

 

The story was controversial not only due to the big amounts of money transfers but also due to the political circumstances. In October 1979, an inquiry commission claimed Bokassa’s personal responsibility in the massacre of a hundred children in Bangui. Before the inquiry, M. Giscard d’Estaing declared that if Bokassa was involved in this tragedy he would have to leave his position and power.

These revelations contributed to the right-wing French president defeat in the 1981 presidential election against the left-wing candidate François Mitterand.

1981 : Maurice Papon crimes against humanity

Credit: Alchetron

This time, the “Canard Enchainé” revealed that actual Budget Minister, Maurice Papon was personally responsible, while he was secretary general for police in Bordeaux, for the arrest and deportation to German internment camp of more than 1.500 jews living in this city. The newspaper held two documents signed by M. Papon in 1943 and 1944 stating this massive deportation.

Maurice Papon was convicted of crimes against humanity in 1998. Due to a long judicial process, and on both technical issues, and poor health condition M. Papon got his release in 2002.

1985 : Torture acts committed by far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen during the independence war in Algeria.

Credit : Rémi Noyon (Flickr).

1997 : Couple Tiberi « fake voters » case in Paris, 5th arrondissement

According to the “Canard Enchainé”, the right-wing (RPR political movement) Paris mayor Jean Tiberi orchestrated an electoral fraud system during the 1995 municipal election and the 1997 legislative election, in the 5th arrondissement.

The newspaper claimed that more than 3.000 electors were illegitimately registered in this electoral district.

The fraud was conducted as follows. The mayor at the time decided to modify electoral lists by adding close friends, RPR sympathizers not registered in this districts lists. After four months of inquiry led by the « Canard » revelations, the commission claimed that near 800 people in those lists were « fake voters », dozens of which were in fact deceased RPR voters who had not been removed.

The couple was convicted in 2015 by the Court of Cassation, equivalent to the Supreme Court.

Jean Tiberi was convicted to 10 months in probation, a €10.000 penalty, and a three-year political ineligibility; his wife Xavière a €5.000 penalty and a nine-month condemnation in probation.

2002 : Chirac couple expenses at the Paris town hall

Credit: inkjetprinter (Flickr)

The “Canard Enchainé” exposed lavish lifestyle of former Paris mayor Jacques Chirac from 1987 to 1995. The story burst while Mr. Chirac holds the presidential office, three weeks away from the first round of the 2002 presidential election.

These expenses included 14 million French francs for food expenditures and issues about false invoices and misuse of public funds. Following these revelations, Le Monde newspaper revealed several cases of « fictitious jobs » in the Paris town hall.

The scandal didn’t prevent the president from being re-elected in 2002. His success during the second round was mainly due to his confrontation with the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. The presence of Front National leader at this second round was a real choc hit wandering among French society. French got afraid that Le Pen might be the new president. Then, M. Chirac won with more than 80% of votes.

2011 : French minister of foreign affairs took advantage of a businessman private jet, close to dictator Ben Ali clan.

Credit: Africa Progress Panel (Flickr)

During the Tunisian revolution, French Minister of foreign affairs Michelle Alliot-Marie said in front of the French National Assembly that France shouldn’t « set themselves up as role models » in such « complex » context. She even proposed Tunisia help from French security forces to stop the civil revolution.
This statement provoked confusion among the public, which accused the political sphere of being too complaisant towards the Tunisian dictatorship regime.

The “Canard Enchainé” revelations provided a new insight of the minister statements. In fact, she took advantages of a private jet provided by a close member of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. These accusations of corruption led a major scandal of Sarkozy government.

2014 : Leaks which prove that Thomas Thevenoud didn’t pay any rent for three years, during his service as foreign trade State Secretary.

2016 : Scandal over the fact that President François Hollande personal hairdresser was remunerated as much as a minister. (9895 € per month as gross wage).

Conclusion :

Then, we can say that the “Canard Enchainé” is a long-time established newspaper in the democratic process of French society, which has used its subversive content and its independence from power to laugh French politics misbehavior as Charlie Hebdo has been used to do.
This reminds us, of a time of the importance of independent media to regulate the political sphere activities. In a raising hostile environment towards the media across Occidental societies, it would be important to re-affirm usefulness of independent medias, and keeping a distance from politicians critics of the media’s.

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Alexandre Carcel