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French press review Press review President François Hollande Terrorism Les Républicains Elysée

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French press review 17 July 2015

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French papers square off over political bickering about President Francois Hollande's revelation of a foiled terrorism plot by homegrown jihadists.


The papers are all about the trauma of homegrown terrorism which continues to haunt France in the wake of revelations by President Hollande and his Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve that security forces have foiled a plot to capture and decapitate a top member of France’s armed forces at a military base.

Cazeneuve said in a statement that that the four terrorists aged between 16 and 23 were rounded up on Monday after being closely watched by intelligence agents. He said the group’s apparent leader is a signal man who was recently kicked out a navy base in the southern town of Collioure, used for training by elite commando forces, where they had planned to stage the attack.

With France still on high alert since the January jihadist attacks in and around Paris and at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that claimed 17 lives, Le Figaro says President Hollande erred by going public with the information.

Obviously it says the opposition Les Républicains party can only consider his attitude as "political appropriation". According to the conservative publication, there are grounds to suspect the highly unpopular Hollande of trying to use the fight against terrorism for political gain.

La Croix differs, arguing that informing the nation about the foiled horror plot can’t be overzealousness on the part of Monsieur Hollande as Nicolas Sarkozy’s close aide Frederic Péchenard suggested. For the Catholic daily it was instead gratifying for the security services to see the government acknowledge their hard work publicly and for the French people to find out that the police and the military are leaving no stones unturned to make the homeland safe.

According to La Croix, Péchenard’s charge that Hollande tried to use the foiled plot to conceal the failures of his government puts the finger on the endemic corporatism reminiscent of France. Péchenard, it explains, is a former police chief turned director general of the opposition Les Républicains party. La Croix also suspects that it may be an attempt to minimise the excellent work being carried out at his former office since his quasi-sacking by the Socialist-led government.

Libération explores the dilemma faced by governments in communicating on terrorism. It argues that while discretion is good for investigations, the people’s right to know about the threats hanging over their heads must also be upheld. The left-leaning publication says there was also a lot of over-exploitation and excessive dramatisation of foiled plots during Nicolas Sarkozy’s time in the Elysée, adding that semantic vigilance must be applied by everyone.