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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 05:43 GMT
Sarkozy media strategy under scrutiny
Nicolas Sarkozy enjoys a closer relationship with the press than any previous French president. But is his media domination a good thing for France?

With his close friends owning many major media outlets, there are fears that the freedom of the French press is now being stifled. BBC Paris correspondent Emma Jane Kirby reports.

Wherever he is and whatever he is doing, Nicolas Sarkozy makes sure it never goes unnoticed.

Magazine cover of Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni
Blanket coverage of Mr Sarkozy's private life has alarmed some

Constantly surrounded by cameras, almost every aspect of the president's life is captured on film.

From the very beginning, he has styled himself as a star and, as his recent romance with pop star Carla Bruni has shown, he enjoys going public with his private life.

Colombe Pringle, the editor of glossy magazine Point de Vue, believes it is a clever ploy to help cover up political failures.

"Everyone is only talking about the love story. Why are you here talking to me?

"Each time there was something embarrassing for the government or when French people were starting to doubt, something happened in his private life.

"He's using it maybe. And he chose well with Carla because she's beautiful, she's well known over the world. She's the perfect media tool," Mr Pringle says.

The Sarkozy show is carefully directed by none other than the president himself.

Friends in media

Jean Louis Missika, a media analyst, believes he deliberately force-feeds the media machine until it can take in no more.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni in Egypt
Mr Sarkozy and his girlfriend are never far from the photographers

He says Mr Sarkozy's strategy is to saturate the media. Every new event that happens under Mr Sarkozy starts before the end of the last one.

This means there is no space for the opposition and no space for the media to make commentary, or analysis and evaluation, on what happened during the last media event.

That accusation is not denied by the president's spin doctor. Thierry Saussez has been working with Nicolas Sarkozy since the late 1980s and says the president enjoys keeping the press on its toes.

If you are on the go all the time without ever stopping, you force the media to follow you, because there is always a competition between the media and the politician as to who will set the agenda.

I'm concerned he's using up his credibility at an alarming rate. Soon he risks talking himself into a vacuum
Yves Marie Laulan
Economist

If the politician wants to win and stay master of his image then he cannot tag behind the media, he has to make them run after him.

Criticising Mr Sarkozy is not easy. Many of the major media outlets are owned by President Sarkozy's close friends.

France's most watched channel, TF1, is controlled by his billionaire mate, Martin Bouygues, and is now dubbed "Tele Sarko" because he is almost never off its screens.

The media owner Arnaud Lagardere, whose Hachette group publishes titles like the glossy magazine Paris Match and the Sunday paper Le Journal du Dimanche, is also very close to the president.

'Using up credibility'

Such connections can mean that unflattering articles - and their authors - are sometimes edited out.

Nicolas Sarkozy at a press conference in the UAE
The French president is said to like staying a step ahead of the press

When Mr Sarkozy's then wife, Cecilia, did not bother to vote in the second round of the elections, despite the fact it was a potential front page story, it mysteriously never got printed and it never made it to air.

Martine Gozlan, a journalist with the critical news weekly Marianne, says journalists need to break free from his grip.

"We worry very much - because he controls a lot of magazines and television and you could see it in the last press conference, when there were 600 journalists and very few asked questions."

"It's really a danger for our freedom of expression for our critical sense. It means there is a kind of court around him. It's the first time we see such a phenomenon," Ms Gozlan says.

While the French press figures out a way to deal with the Sarkozy show, economist and Sarkozy supporter Yves Marie Laulan wonders if the over-exposure of his private life - and the spin - is getting out of control.

"I voted for him and I support him but I'm concerned he's using up his credibility at an alarming rate. Soon he risks talking himself into a vacuum," Mr Laulan says.

Until then, the Sarkozy show goes on... and on and on.



SEE ALSO
Profile: Carla Bruni
15 Jan 08 |  Europe
Profile: Nicolas Sarkozy
16 May 07 |  Europe

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