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Private Life and Public Image: French Privacy Legislation

Trouille, Helen ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0383-8920 (2000) Private Life and Public Image: French Privacy Legislation. International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 49 (1). pp. 199-208.

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In October 1998, at the height of the Monicagate scandal, the publication by the French publisher Plon of a novel which recounts the adulterous relationship in the 1960s between a politician bearing a marked resemblance to Francois Mitterrand, and a journalist, provided an interesting comparison between the attitudes of the French and of the Americans to the romantic dalliances of their respective leaders. For Jeanne Dautun's work of fiction Un ami d'autrefois is most certainly no Monica's Story, and French reactions to their President's lengthy extra-marital relationship with Anne Pingeot have been at the very least understanding, if not even compassionate. In France, the small gathering of graveside mourners amongst whom Mitterrand's mistress and illegitimate daughter Mazarine took their places shocked no-one, although many an eyebrow was raised in the United States. In truth, Mitterrand manipulated the release of information about his private life all along the line, “coming clean” only progressively with his approaching death. Although the general public knew nothing of his double life, journalists had been very much aware of the existence of this second family for a great many years, but had revealed nothing. The respect of his privacy in this relationship and the reactions of fellow French politicians to his unashamed infidelity contrast sharply with the fate reserved for Bill Clinton, the indiscretions of his private life exposed in the nation's press for all to enjoy. We may ask ourselves if French journalists are perhaps more gentlemanly, less cut-throat than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. Or are the cliches which describe latins as inveterate romantics and lovers true after all? Or are these irrational judgments supported by powerful French legislation protecting the individual's right to privacy? This article aims to examine the main texts relating to infringements of privacy in France, highlighting in particular those committed by the press against public figures and celebrities.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020589300064034
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
School/Department: York Business School
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5207

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