Sleaze-raking French website soars
An investigative French website had made its mark and has political elite quaking all at once.
PARIS - A fledgling investigative website has made its mark as the top French media exposing government sleaze, with its coup against a minister leaving national newspapers playing catch-up and other politicians quaking.
After a late-2000s debut uncovering alleged graft led to the career downfall of a conservative minister, Media part has toppled a second minister, this time in the Socialist government, showing it has no allegiance to left or right.
Its disclosure that the man in charge of public finances had an undeclared Swiss bank account until mid-March has created the biggest sleaze scandal of President Francois Hollande's 11-month-old Socialist government.
Edwy Plenel, a long time investigative reporter who founded Media part in 2008, said on Tuesday a shake-up had been long overdue in a political establishment used to newspapers turning a blind eye to peccadillos.
Unlike in Britain, where tabloids rake over the private lives of public figures hunting for the slightest lapse, extra-marital affairs and minor corruption often stays under the radar in France due to a long tradition of media respecting privacy.
"For too long there has been a tradition of 'journalism of government'. One that takes its legitimacy from those in power and which has forgotten that it is in the service of the people, of the law and citizens' right to know," Plenel said.
The erstwhile budget minister, Jerome Cahuzac, is now under investigation for allegedly laundering proceeds of tax fraud and Hollande is scrabbling to stem the scandal, rushing through a new law on moral standards in public life and promising to publish ministers' assets by next week.
Traditional print media were sceptical of a Media part report first run in December and repeatedly denied by Cahuzac, but last week Cahuzac owned up to the bank account and said he had been caught "in a spiral of lies".