The Economist reports on an investigation into rumors about the personal lives of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni:
A rumour about the presidential couple’s alleged extramarital romances has for weeks been met by official silence and by disdain in France’s traditional media. This week, however, a presidential adviser talked of an “organised plot” to destabilise Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni. His lawyer said a judicial inquiry was looking into whether the original author had been “manipulated”. […]
It appears that they started as idle tweets that were picked up by the foreign press only after they were referred to in a blog on the Journal du Dimanche’s website. The Paris public prosecutor is now investigating, after the group that owns the newspaper filed a lawsuit for “fraudulent entry of information into a computer system”. Two people at the group’s website subsidiary have “resigned”. […]
French tradition, combined with the country’s strong privacy laws, once dictated that the public interest stopped at the bedroom door—even when newsrooms were in the know. François Mitterrand kept secret for years a daughter he had out of wedlock and then lodged at the state’s expense. Today, however, those rules have been thrown out. The growth of an American-style celebrity culture has raised the pressure to publish first and pay the penalty later. With tight privacy laws, public figures often sue even when a story is true.