Here is this week’s French press review. Giving you a summary of what the media in France have been interested in with regards to events unfolding in the United States. This week has mainly seen focus on the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and President Obama’s reluctant efforts in Iraq.
On Ferguson, unlike their American counterparts however, French newspapers and other outlets did not shy away from using race related terminology.
French magazine L’Express describes this photograph as the symbol of racial tension that is boiling over in Missouri:
“A photograph showing a protester with his hands in the air, facing a group of overly-armed police officers has become the symbol of racial tensions that currently arose in the town of Ferguson since the death of Michael Brown, shot dead by a police officer in troublesome circumstances”
On Liberation’s website, France’s left-wing newspaper tells us that “The incident puts in perspective the racial tension between a mainly white local police department (only three out of 50 officers are black) and the inhabitants of Ferguson, the majority (66%) of whom are black.”
What is more, BFMTV and L’Express (amongst others) commented on the Twitter phenomenon #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, where the hashtag was often accompanied by the question “Which picture would the media use?”.
Young African Americans posted two pictures of themselves on Twitter, one “good” (often wearing their military uniforms) one “bad” which depicts them in a less favourable light, either making obscene gestures or gang-like signs.
“The media’s coverage of Michael Brown’s death in the United States is becoming increasingly controversial. […] Young people are responding with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown by posting two very different pictures of themselves […] A way of adapting pre-existing cliches to better criticise them”, writes L’Express.
Racism and “staggering” police mistakes
Today, L’Express went further, listing out Ferguson Police Department’s four major mistakes that are just “adding fuel to the fire“.
“Excessively armed in the streets of Ferguson and more inclined to hamper the freedom of the press rather than investigating the death of Michael Brown […] such is the image of the local Police department in Ferguson”
The first mistake, according to the magazine’s website, is “treating Ferguson as if it were a war zone”.
“Armored vehicles, assault rifles, equipment worthy of the special forces, rubber bullets, flashbang grenades and tear gas […] presenting such such a military appearance surely adds fuel to the fire rather rather than relieve the tension?”
The second mistake is “hindering the freedom of the press“. “Many journalists when trying to cover the events in Ferguson find themselves up against a disruptive local police force. Wednesday for example, Al Jazeera reporters were caught in a cloud of tear gas fired by police to disperse protesters, forced to flee the scene moments before going on air leaving their equipment behind which was later taken down by police officers”
Ferguson Police Department’s third mistake is to feed allegations of racism, L’Express states.
“Certain people who were arrested, in an apparent “fishing net” of arrests, were not released as quickly as others. Antonio French, a local Councillor who is very active on Twitter, a member of the African American community, was held for a much longer period of time. A fact that feeds allegations of racism.”
The fourth and final mistake is the police’s apparent finger pointing in the media and double standards regarding the investigation of Michael Brown’s death.
“The name of the police officer who shot Michael Brown, which was to be released, will not be for his safety and that of his colleagues seeing as threats were sent to the police. The local community however, is accusing the local authorities of not being transparent enough.”
“The Ferguson Police Department has also been accused of dragging its heels in the investigation. The main witness, a friend who was with Michael Brown at the time of the incident has still not been heard by Police. According to them, they have tried and failed to get through to him both directly and through his lawyer”
The Reluctant Warrior
In international news, the United States’ recent involvement in Iraq has not gone unnoticed.
Le Figaro calls him “Obama, the reluctant warrior” whilst the French edition of the Huffington Post, in a similar vein, comments that “He (Obama) was elected on the promise of the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq: by launching strikes against the “brutal” jihadists, Barack Obama is reopening, with an obvious reluctance and no clear end date, a chapter he thought he had closed for good”.
Meanwhile, on their website, Liberation describes the situation as “Barack Obama diving back into the Iraqi quagmire” also calling it the “Iraqi headache”
Having said that, the French government has pledged to deliver weapons to Iraq’s Kurdish population in an effort to curb the Islamic State’s advance in the country. This has perhaps played a role in the French media’s reluctance to heavily criticize President Obama, who remains very popular in France.