What the papers said 6 April 2017

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Chemical attacks in Syria and the presidential campaign in France make headlines in the press.

Libération has a shocking front page photo of some of the children who were victims of Tuesday’s chemical attack in Syria.

“Impunity” is the headline of their page-one editorial. Although nothing has been verified yet, left-leaning Libération is ready to lay the blame on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But “this photo isn’t even the worst part,” according to the newspaper. “The worst part is that it is joined by other photos, taken four years ago, when the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its own population for the first time.”

But Assad isn’t the only one to blame, the paper says. Libération also asks what Syria’s ally Russia was doing when it was supposed to guarantee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. It was Russia’s promise that convinced the Americans and the French not to take action against Assad, according to the paper.

Libé rails against what it calls “six years of power plays, cowardice, and powerlessness” that have blocked “any hope of getting out of this conflict which has killed more than 400,00 people”.

“The worst is that these photos will certainly not be the last,” Libération concludes.

#EmmanuelHollande

Right-leaning Le Figaro has a lighter front-page story, about – what else? – the presidential campaign.

Le Figaro talks about the fact that social media has become an essential part of the campaign.

“Social media can’t win presidential elections,” the paper says. “But if used well, Twitter, Facebook, and Yotube can give a real push to candidates.”

Far-right Marine Le Pen and hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon are two examples Le Figaro gives of candidates who have used social media to quote “polish their image” – which at times were a bit rough around the edges – and “bypass traditional media”.

François Fillon’s team also had unexpected success with one of their social media campaigns: the hashtag #EmmanuelHollande, which is a mash-up of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and Socialist president François Hollande. The idea of the campaign is that despite Macron’s efforts to label himself as an outsider, he is basically indistinguishable from the current president, whom no one wants to vote for.

‘Haunted’ by scandal

Fillon’s social media campaigns might be one way to distract people from the scandals dogging his candidacy. But today’s Huffington Post French edition manages to put all the scandals of all 5 top candidates in one story: “Exclusive poll: How scandals will affect the way French people vote.”

HuffPost says that French elections have never been so “haunted” by political affairs.

According to the article, 55 per cent of the people interviewed said that political affairs would affect who they cast a ballot for in the upcoming elections.

Among Republicans, 45 per cent said their vote would be affected, compared to 43 percent of National Front voters.

But perhaps the most important statistic was this: 81 per cent of those questioned said they were worried about transparency in politics.

‘Fractures of the campaign’

Le Monde’s front page talks about the chemical attack in Syria at the top, and it mentions how western leaders are toughening their stance against the Assad regime as a result.

But the paper’s main photo is from Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

Under the headline “The fractures of the campaign” Le Monde says that despite 11 candidates and four hours of debate, not much time was devoted to content.

“No one is claiming that the unprecedented face-off … would help clarify the choice for French voters,” Le Monde says.

The paper criticised the fact that each candidate received only one and a half minutes per response – or about 17 minutes total – and that the candidates’ platforms were barely addressed.

But Le Monde did seem impressed by Philippe Poutou, one of two Trotskyist candidates, according to the paper.

“He tirelessly attacked François Fillon and Marine Le Pen about their legal affairs,” and “broke the normal decorum of these debates”.

Poutou works in a Ford car factory, and during the debate he pointed out that when people like him receive a court summons, they can’t claim workers’ immunity – which has not been the case for Fillon or Le Pen.