The manufacturer of Rafale fighter jets mobilised French media to support its 2015 €5.2 billion deal ($5.7 billion) to sell the aircraft to Egypt, a new report from TRTWorld research centre has said.
The Rafale manufacturer France’s Dassault Group acquired a number of national, regional and local newspapers and magazines in the 2000s, including the French daily Le Figaro in June 2004.
Dassault used the political influence that came from this to “push editorial lines that favour the company line,” promote the Rafale fighter jet and criticise its competitor, says the report.
References to the Rafale in Le Figaro spiked around the time the contract was signed in February 2015 and then again in July when the first round of jets were delivered.
Between 2 February and 2 September 2015 the newspaper published 22 articles about Egypt using the key words Rafale, Suez, Islamic State, ISIS and Daesh which are also used by the French government in its discourse on terrorism.
Associating the fighter jets with terrorism justifies continued arms sales and security cooperation with a regime that carries out widespread human rights abuses in the North African country, some of which have involved French-made equipment.
There are currently 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, an unprecedented number of whom have been handed the death penalty. The Egyptian army is conducting a scorched earth policy in the Sinai peninsula and has demolished thousands of home.
Despite this, since the 2013 coup France has enhanced its security cooperation with the North African country to unprecedented levels, including the sale of a wide range of arms.
The transfer of military technology from France to Egypt is higher than at any time in history despite a 2013 European Union declaration that member states suspend export licences for equipment used for domestic oppression.
This puts Frances official line in support of human rights and democracy at odds with what it practices on the ground.
“The case of Le Figaro is demonstrative of a wider trend that has been taking place throughout the world, namely, an opaque convergence between state, media and corporate interest,” says the report.
“The implications of these developments are wide-ranging, however, one of the most significant is related to what amounts to the hypocritical position of many Western powers when it comes to policy towards Africa and the Middle East.”