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Difficult beginnings for Emmanuel Macron and French media

27 July 2017
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In the political communication field, the new use of social networks and videos brings no good news for the media so far. Direct communication is becoming the first choice of politicians, and while Donald Trump is using Twitter to convey his thoughts, new French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to complete his office by dispensing with the traditional journalistic frame.
To this effect, Emmanuel Macron's political party, La République en marche (LRM), annouced their intention to become a media on July 7th. LRM intended to « form a media » so it can produce its own contents in order to relay its news and initiatives. Editors and cameramen would be recruited.
Usually, this annoucement would not have been such a big deal : the Parti socialiste publishes its Hebdo des socialistes every week, Les Républicains have Les Républicains magazine every three months and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France insoumise) broadcasts many videos of himself talking to his voters on his Youtube channel.
However, it is the context of Macron’s though relationship with media that made LRM’s announcement a cause for concern among the civil society in France.
Emmanuel Macron is working a lot on his image, and even though this locked communication works abroad, French journalists are not ready to accept that situation.
At the very beginning of his office, on May 19th, about twenty media such as Libération, Europe 1, Le Monde, Mediapart or France Télévisions, published an open letter to the new President. For space and safety reasons, the usual way to organize official travels with the French President is to create journalists pools in established shifts. But, for his first official travel, Emmanuel Macron was going to Mali and the Elysée told media that it will choose which journalists could or could not follow the President for all his travels. The letter was entitled « Mister President, it is not for the Elysée to choose journalists » and  was also signed by the French antenna of Reporters without Borders.
« It is not for the President, or his services, to decide about the internal function of newsrooms », wrote the journalists. The writers also say that no other French President before him « has lent himself to this kind of system, in the name of freedom of the press ».
Emmanuel Macron also refused all the interviews, whether for TV, radio, printed or online press, except for one interview simultaneously published in eight european media such as Le Figaro (France), The Guardian (UK), El Pais (Spain) or Le Soir (Belgium) on June 21th, the day before the European Council. He shared his view on the fight against terrorism in Syria, Donald Trump, Brexit and peace negotiations in Ukraine.
The French President also decided to avoid doing the traditional interview of July 14th,  for the French National Day, a tradition existing since Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1978. According to French newspaper Le Monde, the Elysée said « it was not a refusal of obstacle with the media » but   Emmanuel Macron's thinking is « too complex to answer journalists ». This statement certainly did not help the relationship between Macron and the media. The magazine Marianne for instance published a mocking article named «We is not understanding president Macron »  and Buzzfeed France published « 10 Macron's sentences too complex for you, sorry dummies » .
The last stage in the confrontation between journalists and Emmanuel Macron occurred on July 12th. L'Express revealed that the French President's staff decided to move the legendary press room in the Elysée. Officially the room is supposed to be too small, but according to L'Express, the main issue is that it has a very good view on the Presidential Palace and its visitors. The staff will probably move the room outside the Elysée, in a building in the neighbourhood.
All in all, the latest developments suggest that French President prefers direct communication and formal address like he did on July 3rd in Castle of Versailles in front of the entire Parliament. Emmanuel Macron definitely wants to choose what kind of communication he uses, and most often than not it is outside the traditional media frame. Critics say that this style of communication allows the new French President to avoid questions about annoying matters such as the labour code reform or the budget cuts that are part of his agenda. "Emmanuel Macron does not want to be brutalised by the press like François Hollande was. Especially as the affront against the head of state crime was removed in 2013", says François Jost, semiotician and manager of the periodical "Télévision" (CNRS ed) in the magazine Challenges.


Emilie Unternehr, volunteer IJC