French politicians ape Trump's fake news jibes

Candidates in France's presidential election from far-right leader Marine Le Pen to embattled conservative Francois Fillon are attacking media coverage.

Published: 01st March 2017 02:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st March 2017 02:48 AM   |  A+A-

Marine Le Pen, French Far right

French far-right leader Marine le Pen at her campaign headquarters, in Paris. (File Photo | AP)

By AFP

PARIS: Candidates in France's presidential election from far-right leader Marine Le Pen to embattled conservative Francois Fillon are attacking media coverage in a strategy that resembles Donald Trump's assault in the United States.

Le Pen has sharpened her attacks on the media in recent weeks, apparently believing it plays well with supporters of her attempt to portray herself as an anti-establishment outsider -- a strategy that has helped propel her into the lead in the polls.

At a rally in the western city of Nantes on Sunday, Le Pen accused the media of "campaigning hysterically" for Emmanuel Macron, her business-friendly centrist rival for the presidency, as polls showed him enjoying an increase in support.

Le Pen aimed particular vitriol at Pierre Berge, the former partner of late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and one of the owners of centre-left newspaper Le Monde newspaper.

At the other end of the political spectrum, the Communist-backed Melenchon has set up his own YouTube channel to bypass the "traditional media".

Melenchon accused France Inter radio of being "disingenuous" and accused Agence France-Presse (AFP) of having published "two false stories" about his position on Syria and the involvement of Russia in the conflict.

Media historian Patrick Eveno said the phenomenon was not new -- but its tone was harsher than before.

"Attacks against journalists are nothing new, you used to get them in the 1930s," he said.

Former French presidents Francois Mitterrand, Charles Pompidou and Charles De Gaulle were also not above putting the boot into the media, he recalled.

"But the situation is more aggressive now," Eveno said.

"The public has a worse and worse view of politicians, and of journalists too, and so each side blames the other."

In early February, Fillon -- the one-time frontrunner in the contest -- angrily accused the media of trying to "lynch" him over a scandal surrounding fake jobs he is said to have given to his wife and children.

Dominique Wolton, a specialist in political communication, said he detected the same tactics apparently being used by Trump and his White House team of "trying to get the public on your side against the media".

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