Monday, March 1, 2010

French Privacy & the Media

by Samantha Goodman

The French legal structure regarding privacy is traced back to the Napoleonic Code, all citizens, from peasant to president, have the right to paparazzi free private lives.

French Privacy Law
In "The Public and Private in Contemporary French Politics,"
About the author: Raymond Kuhn is a professor of political communication and contemporary French politics at the Queen Mary University of London. His focus is on the politics of the Fifth Republic, with special emphasis on the executive, political leadership, elections, political communication and the mediation of the interface between the public and the private.

Kuhn’s article looks at “the normative confusion surrounding attempts to establish an agreed dividing line between the public and the private in both politicians’ mediated communication and journalists’ political coverage” (185). This means that he is seeking to examine the blurred lines between the public and private lives of politicians and how this plays a role in their relationships with the media and their constituents. He looks at four areas of contention: (1) money; (2) health; (3) sex; and (4) family values.

Almost every French president has been part of a scandal in some capacity, most notably Mitterand for hidden health issues and an illegitimate daughter Mazarine Pingeot, below.

Sarkozy has made the press mainly for his personal relationships. He was married in 1982 and had two children, with the best man in his wedding later being a direct political opponent. He then officiated the wedding of Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz in 1988 and in 1989 she left her husband for Sarkozy and they continued an affair until they were married in 1996. They had one son. In 2007 Sarkozy divorced Cecilia and met Carla Bruni who he married in Feb 2008. Bruni is an Italian born-French singer and modeled who previously dated Jagger.
Read more on French politics and love in the news:

Kuhn believes that to disentangle the public from the private, it is possible to assign news stories concerning politicians to different analytic categories. These can be broken down to public revelations, private revelations, public secrets and private secrets. These can be found in all areas of contention, as politicians work to create a positive image of themselves for the public. They work to keep certain aspects of their personal lives, such as health and money, private secrets, but also aim to highlight certain realms, such as family values, as important to their careers. In the case of women politicians such as Segolene Royal, sex is shown to be unimportant, but for some politicians, specifically males, sexual relationships tend to be hidden or unacknowledged in order to preserve a sense of trust within the society.

French police collected mug shots of all of the paparazzi present near Princess Diana’s crash in an effort to confiscate evidence and discern any breach of privacy

Kuhn writes, the trend on the part of politicians towards the mediatisation of their private liveshas been amplified by the routinisation of the internet as a medium of political communication, and in particular by the spread of the blog’ phenomenon. The blog allows a politician to bypass the traditional intermediary filters and gatekeepers of the mainstream news media.

French political blog “No Parasan!”

In terms of process, the production of blog content is fully under the control of the politician as source and so can be put into the public sphere unmediated. With regard to content, the nature of the blog allows for a mix of public and private information to be disseminated: politicians may not only give their views on public events, but can also control the release of more personalised information, including elements of their private lives if they so choose.

Kuhn concludes that what does exist of political and celebrity press is limited in France because of privacy laws, limited French magazines on the topic and lack of interest by the public. The French media covers mainly Americans in this area.

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