Liberty suffers in French bomb panic

MARY DEJEVSKY

Paris

Last night an investigative television series was launched in France without its starring item: a critical examination of the President's security arrangements. It was considered too sensitive for the current climate and was withdrawn.

On Friday an episode of a popular police drama, Commissaire Moulin, was replaced as being likely to "sow panic" about the terrorist threat. Both were casualties of the nationwide alert introduced after the most recent terrorist attack, on a Jewish school near Lyon.

Two months after the first bomb, which killed seven people and injured 80 at St Michel Metro station in Paris, a big security operation continues and with it a progressive curtailment of accepted freedoms. It is not just that there are troops and riot police on the streets of many cities, nor that rigid precautions are in force around public buildings, nor that controls on all French borders have risen to a severity that reminds some travellers of the former East Germany. It is rather that so many of the precautions now in force under the state of alert are unpublished and cannot be challenged.

Last week, in an overt act of censorship rarely associated with France, the Interior Minister, Jean-Louis Debre, banned a book. It was the White Book on Repression in Algeria, 1991-1994, castigating restrictions and excesses by the French-backed government. The reason given was that the book was an "incitement to hatred" and "could threaten public order". The book comprises case-studies and eye-witness accounts. A journalist on Le Monde who has seen a copy said the minister's arguments "risk not convincing the world of publishing".

Some curbs are doubtless ordained by the security provisions. Others seem to be the result of psychological pressure exerted on the media by, among others, the President. In his television address on 5 September, just before France conducted its latest nuclear test, Jacques Chirac said he was worried by some of the reporting of the terrorist attacks, suggesting that it verged on the sensational and could foster a "psychosis of fear".

The result was an emergency meeting of the broadcasting commission and a noticeable drop in all reporting about terrorism, together with the observance of something akin to a "party line": much talk of distinguishing fundamentalism from Islam, still more talk about inter-religious harmony - and the banning of last night's television feature on the President's security.

Every day thousands of people, most of them of North African appearance, are stopped and searched while going about their normal daily business. At the last count, given by the Interior Minister last week, close to 1 million people had been stopped since the St Michel bombing.

Several callers to a recent phone-in on a radio station for North African listeners said they understood the reasons for the checks and were "proud" to show their ID papers. Other reports suggest the checks are causing increasing friction between some Muslim communities and the police. Last week it also emerged that Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was laying off 30 of its non-French, non-EU, employees, citing the new security provisions. Those affected included North Africans and also Filipinos and others.

Since the Lyon attack, four sets of early-morning raids have been reported, one in and around Paris, two around Lyon and one near Grenoble. Three people arrested near Lyon were brought to Paris and questioned. It is not known exactly how many more of the more than 30 detained are still being held: "at least three" is the only information released. The lack of information - all aspects of the anti-terrorist inquiry are classified - is one side of the coin. The other is the selective way in which information is provided. After the second Lyon raid, police issued photographs and the name of a suspect whose fingerprints were said to have been found on an unexploded bomb on the railway line near Lyon. In 24 hours the media were full of profiles of Khaled Kelkal. Even allowing for differences between the French and British legal systems, his chances of a fair hearing if detained look slim. The accuracy of the information, or where it came from, has hardly been challenged.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?