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What the papers said 20 July 2018

rfi English, Jul 20

President Macron under fire for Elysée attempt to shield a top security aide in suspected brutal attack on a May Day protester.

One issue dominates the papers - the suspected brutal attack by one of President Emmanuel Macron's top security aides on a protester on May Day in Paris.

The video of Alexandre Benalla filmed with a police helmet on his head, striking and then stamping on a young man during the demo, went viral on social media, since it was published by Le Monde.

Findings by the newspaper revealed that Benalla, who is not a policeman, got only a two week suspension without pay for his unacceptable conduct and the illegal use of police insignia, is causing outrage especially amid news that he had been quietly transferred to an administrative role in the Elysée Palace.

La Croix pops some key questions it believes need answers, such as why the real police officers on duty during the May Day protest kept quiet, while the Elysée worker behaved as he did during a demo without being held to account.

The Catholic daily also wonders how the measures taken against him were so lenient and why the Elysée had to wait for the Le Monde article to come out before ordering a judicial investigation.

Libération says the Elysée was naïve to imagine that the very lenient sanctions meted out on Benalla would suffice and that it was too insignificant a matter to attract public attention. "Wrong", says left-leaning Libé. According to the publication, there was no way the actions of such a prominent member of Macron's security team could get ignored.

Le Figaro for its part claims that the pathetic manner in which this affair was managed is evidence of a shortage of qualified communications strategists at the Elysée Palace. For the conservative daily that probably explains why Macron's publicity stunts have fallen flat, such as the Macron video about "the crazy amount of dough dilapidated in social security".

Le Figaro says it got people fuming, not about the urgency of cutting social welfare spending, but about the confirmation of his position as "rich man's” President's image. In the publication's view, by trying to protect Alexandre Benalla, Macron undermined a major achievement of his Presidency - the moralisation of political life.

Since this article was published, Benalla has in fact been fired by Macron.

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