French first lady speaks out

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The Independent Online

The French first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, made her debut as a commentator on current affairs in the august columns of Le Monde yesterday.

Mme Bruni- Sarkozy criticised the journalistic morals of the French press following the publication of a text message allegedly sent by President Sarkozy to his former wife just before his wedding last month.

The web site of the respected magazine Le Nouvel Observateur said that M. Sarkozy had sent a text to his divorced wife, Cecilia, saying: "Come back and I will cancel everything."

President Sarkozy began a legal action against the magazine for "forgery". He dropped the action yesterday after the journalist who wrote the article sent a letter of apology to Mme Bruni-Sarkozy.

The premiere dame contributed an article to the Le Monde comment pages yesterday under the headline "halt to calumny" . She was by-lined as Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, writer-composer-singer, wife of the President of the Republic.

The incident was now closed, she said, but contained important lesssons for the French press. The "concrete sources" claimed by the journalist could not have existed because the text message was never sent, she said.

"I do not wish to deliver lesson in ethics but it seems to me that when a journalist abandons the honesty he owes to his readers and mistakes his desires for realities, he has no right to cite 'concrete sources'."

"If from now on rumour replaces information and fantasy generates scoops, where are we going?"

Mme Bruni-Sarkosy suggested that the journalist felt he could write what he wanted because he believed that the President would never sue. By taking legal action, she said, her husband was not attacking the freedom of the press but "defending the liberty of all of us".

President Sarkozy's ex wife, Cecilia, was questioned by investigating magistrates after the Elysee brought its action against Le Nouvel Observateur and M. Routier. She denied that she had ever received such a text.

M. Routier said that he accepted that this was the "official version" but he stood by his original story. Without admitting that the story was incorrect, he wrote earlier this week to Mme Bruni-Sarkozy apologising for any embarrassment that he might have caused. As a result, President Sarkozy's office announced yesterday that he had withdrawn the complaint for "forgery", and "use of a forgery".

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