Macron strikes back against liberal press

French president Macron has a problem with the Foreign Press. He believes that non-French journalists give negative view of his policy against Muslim extremists and terrorists.

Last Thursday, the president personally contacted The New York Times. “He called me from his palace to complain,” writes columnist Ben Smith from the prestigious American newspaper. “He seems to have a score to settle. He thinks we’re prejudiced.”

Macron said to the journalist: “in the attacks of five years ago, everyone was behind us. Now there are foreign newspapers saying that France is racist and Islamophobic, and that is the problem.”

Macron accused foreign media of “legitimizing violence”. What exactly did he mean by that, according to Smith, Macron didn’t say. “Making such an accusation is the worst thing you can do to the press. That’s what we’d expect from the president of the United States.”

It’s not the First Time Emmanuel Macron has personally taken action against negative coverage of his policy. At the beginning of this month he wrote a letter in the British newspaper Financial Times.

That too was about his approach to extremism, and in that too, Macron lashed out at foreign journalists. “We don’t need articles in the Press that divide us,” wrote Macron.

He responded to a critical article in the Financial Times. The Brussels correspondent of the British business newspaper, Mehreen Khan, wrote: “Macron’s war against Muslim separatism only continues to divide France.”The British newspaper later removed that article from the website due to “factual inaccuracies”.

Macron wrote in his response: “I am accused of stigmatising French Muslims for electoral reasons. But we are not against a religion, we are against fanatics and violent extremism.”

The call and the letter sent in are coming after a series of recent attacks in France. Between the end of September and the end of October, the country was hit by three acts of terrorism. Two people were stabbed in Paris, a teacher was beheaded north of the capital, and three churchgoers were murdered in Nice.

In response, president Macron announced a stricter policy. Radical Muslim organisations are banned, an extremist mosque has been closed and radical imams will be expelled. In addition, the president reiterated that Muhammad’s cartoons may continue to be published in France.

Then there was protest in several countries with many Muslims. Turkish president Erdogan called for a boycott of French products. In Bangladesh and other countries there was a demonstration against the French measures.

At the end of October, Macron gave an interview to Al Jazeera, an Arab television station. He said that he “understands and respects” the feelings of Muslims.

In his interview with Smith from The New York Times, he now says he is surprised by stories in the press “from countries that share our values”.

According to Macron, this is due, for example, to a lack of understanding of how French society is organised. “The president said that foreign media do not understand how the French separation of church and state works,” Smith writes.

Macron said to Smith: “American society is one of multiculturalism. Religions and ethnicities coexist. The French model is not multicultural. I don’t care if anyone’s black, yellow or white, Catholic or Muslim. Everyone’s just a French citizen.”

But according to the American journalist, these are “abstract ideological differences that seem far removed from the daily lives of ethnic minorities in France, who complain about police abuse, ghetto self-formation and discrimination in the labour market”.

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