Sarkozy’s Bid to Bottle Up the Media

Television, courtesy of dailyinvention/flickr

Perhaps Nicolas Sarkozy has always been a political figure excessively focused on publicity, ratings and the attention of the media. Yet, as of late President Sarkozy has started to open up about his ambitions of becoming the puppeteer of the French media landscape, grasping for control of some of the most influential institutions of the French press.

In short, President Sarkozy tried to become the majority shareholder of Le Monde (a renowned newspaper), he changed the law in order to be able to appoint the director of France Télévisions (the publicly-owned syndicate who, among others, controls France 2 and France 3), and he might be able to exert direct influence on Agence France-Presse (the third largest news agency in the world) if the latter successfully turns into a public firm.

It seems legitimate to ask whether France is currently going through a similar process of centralization of media control as Italy under Berlusconi. Despite all the evidence suggesting that this is the case, the situation in France is still different. While major parts of Italian media remain under the direct control of Berlusconi, the French media is dominated by small parts of the French establishment instead. Unlike Berlusconi, Sarkozy is not (yet) a majority shareholder of any private media companies and as the Guardian notes, he relies on a powerful network of close friends who are instead.


Money over Matter at UNESCO?

Bundle of US Dollar bills
Photo: Andrew Magill/flickr

By mandate, UNESCO is supposed to be the ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,’ an organization whose mission is “to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue.” But when it comes to money, ideals and integrity seem to be less important. How else could UNESCO explain its intentions to set up a scientific award sponsored by and named after Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, a head of state best known for corruption and his lack of respect for human rights?

Kick-starting Development Aid

Photo: Screenshot of

Often in development aid, misery and natural disasters determine where the money goes. The tsunami that devastated Banda Aceh in 2004 could be seen all over the news for many weeks. The recent Haitian earthquake is still very present in many minds and may touch our conscience in such a way that we gladly give our money to respective development agencies. As a consequence, these places are swarmed with NGOs, IOs and private initiatives creating and realizing projects.

Yet, isn’t that exactly the purpose of development aid? To help people in need? Yes, but meanwhile a disaster victim in Banda Aceh receives 5 tents, 7 pairs of shoes and tons of goods of development aid for years to come, children in the poorer regions of Africa, South America or elsewhere lack the public attention to attract comparable support.

Relying heavily on organizations such as the UN Development Programme or US Aid, funding of projects in unknown and remote areas can be very difficult. It is a widespread practice that agencies, especially those which count on private financial contributions, use the “big disasters” to raise money and then redirect these funds to cross-finance smaller, less known projects in other regions. However, this practice is often prone to intransparency, fraud and improper management.

Israel and the Bomb

Israeli President Shimon Peres
Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

After years of speculation, journalists from the UK paper the Guardian and US historian Sasha Polakow-Suransky disclosed information that could prove what many had been suspecting for years: Israel has the bomb.

Polakow-Suransky came across a bundle of classified documents when conducting research in South Africa. These papers were handed over by the current South African ANC government but date back to the times of the Apartheid regime in 1975. The documents include a memo, meeting minutes, as well as an agreement between South Africa and Israel for the transfer of nuclear weapons to the Apartheid regime signed by Shimon Peres – the current president of Israel and then minister of defense.

If the authenticity of the documents is verified, this would be the first time the world has written proof about Israel being a nuclear power and the implications thereof are not yet sorted out.

What will happen to the current multilateral negations on nuclear non-proliferation and the specific case of Iran? Just in this month, Iran agreed to abandon its nuclear enrichment research program and to cooperate with Turkey. How will the Iranians now perceive the new development and the factual existence of a hostile nuclear power in the region? Moreover, how is Israel going to position itself once it can no longer deny to be in possession of nuclear weapons?

President Peres immediately denied any involvement of Israel and himself in negotiations on the exchange of nuclear weapons with the South African Apartheid regime. Nonetheless, Israeli government officials tried to block the South African government from handing out the respective documents to Mr. Polakow-Suransky, giving rise to the question why the Israelis care about these papers in the first place.

For further reading:
The Guardian Article on “Israel’s Nuclear Weapons: Time to Come Clean”
Israel-South Africa Agreement
Letter from Shimon Peres from November 11, 1974
Declassified memo from South African General RF Armstrong
Minutes of third ISSA meeting from June 30, 1975
Minutes of further ISSA meeting – Befriend Your Dearest Dictator


In May 2010, Amnesty International Portugal (AIP) surprised the internet crowd with a website that, at first, seemed just like another guerrilla marketing clue. intends to become a social network that deliberately resembles Facebook, yet with a special twist.

According to AIP, Tyrannybook is more than just a marketing campaign to raise people’s awareness about the organization in particular and human rights’ violations in general. The website will provide its users with live information updates on the world’s dictators and tyrants, and allow the public to keep track of a broad variety of human rights issues.

Once signed up, people may watch the dictators of their choice, such as Radovan Karadzic or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and network with peers to exchange news and ideas. As it is common for social networks, the more users there are, the more interaction will take place and the more information will be provided (not the last by the users themselves). But herein lays the problem.

The topic of human rights is a delicate issue that deserves a certain level of respect. It is questionable whether a social network based on Facebook can guarantee the necessary degree of seriousness. After all, Facebook has been struggling time and time again with users engaging in disrespectful behavior, personal insults or threats and the like (not to mention privacy concerns). Thus, how can AIP guarantee that users of Tyrannybook will not give in to similar misdemeanours?

Moreover, if the users provide parts of the information too, who can promise that the information is accurate and qualitatively reliable? Are mechanisms of self-control sufficient or is it just a question of time until we may find unpopular professors or entertainers alongside mass murderers and tyrants?

Besides, AIP has not done itself a favor listing China’s President Hu Jintao in the same category as Kim Jong-il and Robert Mugabe. Be it true or not, calling President Hu a dictator will most likely discredit Amnesty International in China and take away any potential leverage they might have had when bargaining with the People’s Republic, and the same holds true for other politicians too.

Then again, does Amnesty International need political correctness to fight for their cause?