The cover of the paper’s weekend edition, which comes just as the pre-election ban on reporting came into effect on midnight Saturday, reads: “Do what you want but vote for Macron.”
The paper has been denounced by critics who have labelled it “a propaganda machine.”
France’s presidential election commission had issued a reminder to media outlets to refrain from any commentary liable to affect the presidential race, saying “candidates, media or citizens are prohibited from distributing any propaganda material concerning the elections.”
On the eve of the second round of election, however, the pro-Macron message was published along with a picture of the centrist politician on the cover of the paper.
Liberation shared a preview of the cover for the upcoming paper edition on Friday evening.
The pro-Macron headline didn’t go unnoticed on social media. People took to Twitter to lament what they perceived as a sign of a loss of democracy in the country.
“You said freedom of expression?” asked one person, ironically.
Another user suggested that Liberation’s headline was democracy “according to the left.”
Others accused the paper of not being objective, saying: “It’s a shame for media to give their opinion. We are smart to choose without you.”
Another said: “France has no democracy any more. Media force us to vote for a candidate.”
“Are you going to delete this tweet … or are you going to override the law?” asked one person in a direct question to the paper.
It’s not the first time that Liberation has published a provocative political headline ahead of a voting. On April 22, the day before the first round of the French presidential election, the paper’s front cover featured the Republican presidential candidate Francois Fillon and the National Front leader Marine le Pen with the accompanying “anyone but them” headline.
The ban on pre-election reporting was nearly disrupted after documents and emails relating to Macron’s campaign leaked online Friday. The presidential election commission urged the media to be cautious before publishing the details.
“[The commission] asks media, and in particular [news] websites, not to report on the content of this data,” the commission said.
They also warned that distribution “of false information” may lead to criminal charges.
Russian & US top brass discuss plan for Syrian safe zones
General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, called General Valery Gerasimov, the chairman of the Russian General Staff, to discuss the latest developments in Syria by phone, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.
The ministry’s statement was vague on the results of the consultations, saying that there was “a confirmation of the readiness to resume, in full volume, the implementation by the parties of the obligations under the Russian-American Memorandum on ensuring safety and prevention of incidents in the airspace of Syria.”
Russia suspended the memorandum after the US launched Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase last month. Moscow considers the attack to have been an act of international aggression. The document is meant to prevent possible adverse encounters between American and Russian warplanes over Syria.
The ministry said the officials had also discussed “additional measures to prevent conflict situations during joint operations against ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra,” the two groups designated by the UN as terrorists operating in Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry has dismissed western media reports about some alleged clashes between Syrian government forces and opposition groups in Hama province following the safe zone initiative which came into effect hours ago.
It also said that the situation in the safe zones remains stable.
However, the ministry confirmed that government forces came under fire in Hama province on Friday night. The attackers turned out to be Al Nusra terrorists, the Russian defence ministry said, citing data provided by the Turkish military. The extremists’ combat sites were destroyed, it added.
Russia, Turkey, and Iran agreed upon the plan to establish four safe zones in Syria during peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. It is meant to provide a degree of safety to armed opposition groups that pledge to end their violent revolt and seek a political transition in Syria. Under the plan, Damascus and these groups have agreed not to engage in hostilities with each other in those safe zones.
The safe zones have been established in Syria’s Idlib Governorate and parts of neighboring Latakia, Aleppo and Hama provinces, the northern part of Homs province, Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta neighborhood, and parts of southern Deraa and Quneitra provinces that border on Jordan. The exact borders of the zones have yet to be demarked and agreed upon by the three guarantors of the plan.
Observation posts and checkpoints manned by the guarantors are to be established along the lines to monitor how well the deal is observed. The first hours after the agreement came into force were marked by a reduced level of violence, but some violations have been reported.
The Russian Center for Syrian reconciliation said on Saturday that it had received reports that some jihadist groups were planning to “attempt to derail the memorandum,” but added that the Russian military is prepared to “eliminate any possible provocations by the terrorists.”
The deal offers no protection to terrorist groups such as Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL), which remain legitimate targets in Syria. The armed opposition is expected to keep the jihadists from using the zones as safe havens. The memorandum also states that the three guarantors will “take all necessary measures to continue the fight” against the terrorists.
The plan has been hailed by UN and received reserved approval from Washington. Russia said it expects the US-led coalition to refrain from flying over the safe zones, but the Pentagon has yet to publicly make such a commitment.
Putin rebukes Netanyahu over ‘groundless’ accusations on suspected chemical incident in Syria
During the phone call initiated by the Israeli side on Thursday, Putin and Netanyahu stressed the importance of boosting international efforts to tackle terrorism, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Both sides “expressed readiness to expand [cooperation] in the interest of assuring stability and security in the Middle East and, first of all, in Syria,” it said.
In particular, Putin “pointed out that it was unacceptable to make groundless accusations against anyone without conducting a detailed and unbiased investigation.”
Following the reports of the alleged attack on Tuesday, Netanyahu said that “there’s no, none, no excuse whatsoever for the deliberate attacks on civilians and on children, especially, with cruel and outlawed chemical weapons.”
The Israeli PM also urged the “international community to fulfill its obligation from 2013 to fully and finally remove these horrible weapons from Syria.”
At least 70 people, including 11 children, were reportedly killed in a suspected chemical incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Iblib province, Syria, on Tuesday. The US and its allies have put the blame on the Syrian government.
Earlier on Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that he was sure Syrian government forces were behind the “chemical weapons attack” in Idlib.
“The two murderous chemical weapons attacks on civilians in the Idlib region in Syria and on the local hospital were carried out by direct and premeditated order of Syrian President Bashar Assad, with Syrian planes. I say this with 100 percent certainty,” Lieberman said.
The defense minister criticized the ‘international community’ for having “zero” reaction to the incident, stressing that “the world needs to take responsibility and, instead of just talking, needs to do something.”
When asked if Russia was somehow involved in the chemical weapons attack, Liberman replied “we don’t know.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said the Syrian military carried out airstrikes in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, hitting production facilities where terrorists stored chemicals, which were previously used in Iraq and the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has dismissed any accusations that the Syrian Army deployed chemical weapons in Idlib.
It’s impossible that the army – which has been making significant gains in almost all theaters of the Syrian war – would use banned chemical weapons against its “own people” and even terrorists, the minister said.