Friday, January 19, 2018

Macron Tells Abbas Not To Rule Out Trump Peace Plan - Uses 'Fake News' To Attack Press Freedom

Macron said to tell Abbas not to rule out Trump peace plan

With Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ramping up his rhetoric against the United States, French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly implored the aging Palestinian leader not to rule out a peace plan being prepared by the Trump administration.
According to a Channel 10 report Thursday, Macron dispatched his foreign policy adviser Aurelien Lechevallier to a secret visit to Ramallah earlier this week where he met with PA security chief Majed Faraj, longtime negotiator Saeb Erekat and other Palestinian officials.
During his meetings, Lechevallier stressed that Macron expects the PA to remain committed to non-violence and to a two-state solution, as well as to give Trump’s peace plan a “chance.”
“Don’t reject Trump’s peace plan off the bat,” Channel 10 reported Lechevallier as telling Palestinian officials. “Give it a chance.”
The report said Lechevallier told the Palestinians that although they may object to Trump’s peace plan, they should not end their recognition of Israel in protest or tear up the Oslo Accords, which formalized the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and created the PA.
“Maybe your right and the plan is bad and unacceptable. But don’t blow [it] up right now,” said Lechevallier. “It would be a pity if you chucked the plan in the trash before you get it. First read it and then decide whether to say no.”

Abbas met with Macron last month in Paris, where he rejected any role in the US peace process. The PA leader has increasingly struck out at the US since Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, culminating in a Sunday speech in which he referred to a US peace deal as the “slap of the century” and claimed Israel is a European “colonial project.”
According to a Hadashot TV news report Tuesday, Abbas’ fiery address came after Saudi officials informed him of the parameters of Trump’s peace plan, which includes a number of components previously rejected by the Palestinians.
Channel 10 reported that Macron has been working to calm Abbas, telling him last month that “you have international support. But [you] can’t take too harsh of measures.”
The TV channel said Macron’s efforts to reassure Abbas have been coordinated with Trump, with the two leaders speaking by phone multiple times in recent weeks.
As part of the effort to defuse the tensions, Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jason Greenblatt, arrived in Israel on Wednesday. He was set to take part in meetings with members of the so-called Middle East Quartet — the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

In press statements for the beginning of this year, French president Emmanuel Macron announced his plans for cracking down on fake news.
Haunted by the controversial Macron Leaks towards the end of the presidential campaign (which he won in May last year), the new French president was expected to go after the practice early in his term. The accuracy of the online information flow is important, but Macron’s solutions are seriously worrying.

Macron’s Aim
In the press conference, Emmanuel Macron announced that restricting the presence of fake news online was essential to French democracy, andadded:

“As you know, propagating fake news on social media these days only demands a couple of tens of thousands of euros, and can be done while remaining completely anonymous.”

While it is true that you can spend tens of thousands of euros, fake news can easily be spread with no money whatsoever. All it takes on social media is for a post to go viral, in which case there is no need to sponsor the posts at all.

In order to achieve better public information, Macron wants to make transparency about who operates and runs news websites compulsory (if it sponsors content on social media), and give judges the possibility to completely delete content.

His proposed bill will only apply for election periods, during which he says that public opinion should be fuelled by facts, not false information. This restriction was due to the “#MacronLeaks” which happened shortly before the second round of France’s presidential election in May last year. Thousands of emails of Macron’s staffers had been leaked on 4Chan and led to wild accusations.

It turns out that what followed the controversy of these #MacronLeaks is really all you need to know about why regulating fake news is a terrible idea.
In a quick reaction, the French election commission, which is supposed to be impartial, strongly urged media outlets not to cover the leaks and went even further by asking them to “not relay the contents of these documents in order not to alter the integrity of the vote, not to break the bans laid down by the law and not to expose themselves to the committing of criminal offences.”
Thousands of leaked emails, which required weeks and months of work in order to identify whether or not they were legitimate or relevant, were automatically put under rules of censorship. It should be noted as well that the administration was led by Fran├žois Hollande, the then-incumbent president who had endorsed Emmanuel Macron for president.

The general question of government isn’t “who should have the power?” but “how much power should there be?” The facts are: that Emmanuel Macron clearly seeks to limit the risks for future leaks to damage his reputation for his re-election campaign; that the administration is closely linked with the authorities that put reporting bans on media outlets; that Macron’s Minister of Justice had to step down because he called journalists on the phone to tell them not to report on a story; and that another two members of the government are suing a media agency because it revealed that the holiday cottage they stayed in belonged to an international narcotics smuggler.

All of these reflect badly on the legislative outreach for more control into press freedom. But far more importantly: if Macron’s supporters are convinced that Le Pen’s accession to power would be truly fascistic, they would be ill-advised to lay the groundwork for authoritarian lawmaking in which government decides which news is fake and which isn’t.
Seeking the truth is not the job of the government but of those who observe the news. It’s only in the free market of ideas that information can transparently be checked and double-checked elsewhere. Yes, this means that reported news can be false. Yes, this means that there can be conflicts of interests. But far worse than both these things are institutions which basically claim to be the Ministries of Truth. We know how that ends.

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