French Repression?

Scanning Instapundit, I notice that Glenn has a blurb up that says:

STILL MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: This time in France, where a book on the ELF scandal is being suppressed.

Amnesty International? Reporters Without Borders? Go to it.

Clicking through to Porphy’s site, I find:

This speaks for itself:
A Paris court last night halted publication of a book by a former investigating magistrate that claims France is institutionally corrupt.

The book by Eva Joly, who uncovered political and financial corruption at the Elf oil company, is the first by a judge to have been blocked by the French courts.

The stay is only “temporary”, but the precedent it establishes is. . .telling.
Arnaud Montebourg, a Socialist MP, said she should be given the Legion d’Honneur rather than be attacked for her honesty.

Mme Joly, 57, said the French establishment was one of the most rotten in Europe. “It is a country of networks that don’t like to be challenged.”

Yes. Quite. And the EU is a rough beast being born in its image.

Clicking through to the original story, I find:

A Paris court last night halted publication of a book by a former investigating magistrate that claims France is institutionally corrupt.

The book by Eva Joly, who uncovered political and financial corruption at the Elf oil company, is the first by a judge to have been blocked by the French courts.

The court ruled that publication of Is This The World We Want To Live In? might prejudice the trial of former Elf executives, now in its third month, which has already revealed the extent of political and financial corruption in France.

The court ordered that publication, intended for today, must be postponed until the trial is over. Mme Joly said she would appeal.

(emphasis mine)

The last thing I’d do in the world is try to argue specific issues of law with a law professor (something about an ear full of apple cider…). And I’m interested in how U.S. courts would deal/have dealt with similar situations.

But on its face, the request to delay publication until the trial is complete – ostensibly to improve the chances of a fair trial – doesn’t seem outrageously repressive to me.

But what do I know, I don’t think the French are evil, either.

12 thoughts on “French Repression?”

  1. Dunno, seems reasonmable to me too. It’s even free publicity, guaranteeing the author time on TV and roles as an analyst during the trial. If anything, this move should boost sales sharply when the book does come out.

    This one has “bestseller” written all over it, though I’d also expect a couple of imitators to be taking advantage of the delay and rushing toward print.

  2. Eva Joly has near heroic status in France. She was the first French judge to vigorously challenge the system rather than to acquiesce in in it or defer to higher political authorities more interested in protecting their own or some presumably overriding national interest, usually commercial or political, than in seeking truth or justice. She is the French equivalent of Baltazar Garzon, the famous Spanish magistrate who hounded Pinochet.

    However, the notion that postponing publication until after closing arguments (July 7) in the Elf trial amounts to crushing of dissent or a cover-up is ridiculous.

    After all, Eva Joly was one of the principal investigating magistrates looking into the very charges now in question in the Elf trial. There is nothing outrageous or novel about a short-term restraining order here, and it hardly sets any precedent at all: such orders to protect the presumption of innocence have long existed in France, not to mention the United States or Great Britain. Imagine Rudy Giuliani publishing an exposé of the mafia in the midst of a hypothetical trial of John Gotti.

    France does not have a solid tradition or well-defined system of balance of powers, in particular as far as the judiciary is concerned. Eva Joly is part of an inchoate movement to enhance the power of the judiciary. Some fear, justifiably, I think, that there is some risk of investigating magistrates (who act as a sort of mix between D.A. and judge) gone wild resulting in an abuse of judicial power, and this is indeed a matter of debate.

    Indeed, my suspicion is that if Eva Joly were the judge actually presiding over the Elf trial and were to rule on publication of another judge’s “memoires” concerning the charges in question, her integrity is such that she would likely have made the same decision.

  3. “But on its face, the request to delay publication until the trial is complete – ostensibly to improve the chances of a fair trial – doesn’t seem outrageously repressive to me.”

    i like to see some realistic analysis about french policy.
    there are things to critize, and to do this is the best and most neccessary thing in a democracy, but this should not include unrealistic, biased ‘bashing’.

    even if i personal thing it is questionable to delay the publication of this book (simply because i am one of those old-fashioned that think _every_ information should be free, at every time and place) it is notable and acceptable that there are reasons for this and there is quite a mount of honesty in doing this.

    after reading some unrealistic and unjustified critic it is notable to see some critical, but realistic views on french policy. i seem to like your blog more and more by every day. (at least because of the good discussions).

  4. The currently right-wing-chic anti-French hysteria is really embarrasing. If you want to point out abuses of justice, there are better examples. If you want to talk about the repression of free speech, there are better examples. If you want to address state support for terrorism, there are better examples. If you want to address diplomatic hypocrisy, there are better examples.

    If you want to take cheap shots to make yourself feel better, then there’s the French, I guess.

  5. Just because there are better examples in this world of abuse of justice, repression of free speech, and diplomatic hypocrisy doesn’t make the current behavior of French politicians any less valid as examples of them.

    When it comes to these qualities, as Bogie said, “There will always be Paris.”

  6. Maxim:

    I’m not familiar with the French jurisprudence system, but one of the basic assumptions of the American one is the concept of a “fair trial” If information is released too soon, a fair trial could be jeopardized. This knife cuts both ways, so either prosecution or defendant could be harmed. Judges have used a “gag order” where they feel necessary, and it sounds like the French court made a similar decision. Once the trial is over, gag orders should be rescinded.

  7. >Judges have used a “gag order” where they feel necessary

    The comparison of a gag order to the order in this case to prevent publication of the book is a misunderstanding of American legal practice.

    In the United States, a gag order may be applied to principals in a trial: defendant, plaintiff (and their attorneys), and occasionally prosecutors. The practice is not applied to other parties writing about the trial, and attempting to suppress the publication of facts about a current trial while the trial is going on is, well, a clear facial violation of the first amendment. To start with.

    (However, this is not generally a principle that is given much importance in other countries, including other Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence countries. There was a case in Canada a few years ago, for example, a very gruesome kidnapping/rape/murder perpetrated by a husband and wife. The wife was given a light sentence on a manslaughter guilty plea, in exchange for her testimony against her ex-husband, who was about to be tried for first-degree murder. The prosecution obtained a court order forbidding publication in Canadian media of the guilty plea and the fact that the sentence was pursuant to a plea bargain [but not the relatively light conviction and sentence] to create a public perception that the husband was the mastermind and the guiltier of the two. In the United States, there is no way this would have been allowed, but at the time I got the impression that this was not too uncommon in Canada.)

    That being said, it’s true that there are many countries that are far, far more repressive than France.

  8. dear jeanne a e devoto, i hope you read my two last posts in this article:
    http://windsofchange.net/cgi-bin/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=3592
    i wasn’t very pleased to see noby answering after uncovering what these accusations against europe really where.

    and i hope you recognised the new story armed liberal wrote, based on comments by G Gonzalez, who said:

    “However, judging from Armed Liberal’s initial post, he didn’t know, either, that Eva Joly was involved in the case.”

    as you see she is NOT a thrid party, but involved in the case. which makes it logical her book is not pblished as long the case is ended.
    but biased information and wrong realities about europe’s political system won’nt uncover this, but create a prejudiced hatred picture that is indeed wrong.

    some should recognise european reality and think again, before making their statements, and before thinking about the world and it’s design in the new century.

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