Macron Defends Free Speech as French Magazine Sees Attacks

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron waded into a debate over a magazine cover that labeled Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “dictator,” saying attacks on kiosks selling the latest issue were unacceptable.

“Freedom of the press has no price: without it, it’s dictatorship,” Macron said on Twitter late on Monday. “It is totally unacceptable that Le Point posters are being ripped off kiosks on the grounds they displease the enemies of freedom of the press, in France and abroad.”

Le Point, a weekly magazine with a circulation of about 315,000, splashed a photo of the Turkish president on its May 24 edition with words in yellow that read: “The dictator. How far will Erdogan go?” It accused the leader of locking up opponents, judges and journalists.

Since then, Le Point, which is based in Paris, said it has suffered “harassment, insults, intimidation, antisemitic abuse and threats.” France is particularly sensitive about the issue because of attacks three years ago on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris that killed 12 people.

In videos posted on social media networks over the weekend, men can be seen trying to tear off posters of Le Point at newsstands.

Macron and Erdogan have been in regular contact since the French president’s election one year ago. The two men spoke seven times, according to the Elysee palace’s records, with their last conservation dating back to April 14 after France’s joint military operation in Syria with the U.S. and the U.K.

Erdogan, who’s been running Turkey for 15 years, kicked off his latest campaign on May 24, one month ahead of the elections for a new president and new members of Parliament. The vote will elect a leader with new and vastly reinforced presidential powers following a 2017 referendum that changed the constitution.

If the 64 year-old Turkish president was once viewed as the guarantor of a stable, market-friendly government, investors now worry he’ll take more control of the economy. That’s sent the currency plummeting 11 percent in May. Erdogan said he intends to tighten his grip on the economy and take more responsibility for monetary policy if he wins the election next month.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.