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Le Canard Enchainé Celebrates 100 Years of Needling the Establishment

14 December 2016 par AAPA France

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PARIS—Drawing on his large stock of entertaining anecdotes, Erik Emptaz, the editor of Le Canard Enchainé, looked back over the French satirical weekly’s 100 years of existence when he met the AAPA on Dec. 7.

A solid turnout at the Bonne Bière heard Emptaz comment on a vast range of subjects, including the paper’s independence from advertisers and big business shareholders, the recent surprises of Brexit, the US presidential election, and François Fillon as the right/centre candidate for next year’s French presidential election.

Emptaz, who joined the Canard in 1978 and became editor in 1994, said that for the moment Fillon’s chances of winning are very good in view of the disarray of the French left. The paper, which is still published only in print form, reports on serious issues without ever taking itself seriously, he says.

It does not try to provoke when it conducts interviews, and its targets do not usually bear grudges because the paper attacks the facts, not the people behind them. Although leaning to the left rather than the right of the political spectrum, above all it criticises the government in power.

The paper employs 30 full-time journalists plus a number of freelances, and has a weekly paid readership of about 400,000, Mr. Emptaz said. But few of the major scandals it unearths create such an international stir as President François Hollande’s 10,000-euro-month hairdresser, he told us. That story was picked by media all over the world.

The paper makes provisions for lawsuits, but wins most of its libel cases on appeal. Bouygues SA sued it for 9 million euros for alleging the contractor had rigged the tender to build the new defence ministry at Balard in south-western Paris. The paper won in the end and only demanded legal costs and a symbolic euro in compensation.

One of Emptaz’ many anecdotes came from his pre-Canard days at the defunct daily Le Matin de Paris, when he and two colleagues decided to confess to Catholic priests in different parts of France that they had indulged in adultery, homosexuality and masturbation.

They were surprised to learn that their punishments for the same ‘sin’ varied according to the region. They were all ex-communicated from the Catholic church for breaching confessional secrecy. But it turned out that all they had to do if they wished to be readmitted to the fold was to … confess.

All that and much more are contained in the book published earlier this year by Editions du Seuil, entitled Le Canard Enchainé—100 ans and now in its second print run.

-Barbara Casassus (with thanks to Lara Marlowe for sharing her notes)