Dominique Strauss-Kahn has had enough. He is suing multiple French publications and a French government official, claiming they violated his privacy. The New York Times explains why the case could have ramifications throughout France.
The French news media, stung by criticism of its previous hands-off approach to the private lives of Mr. Strauss-Kahn and other politicians, has been following the Carlton Affair [in which DSK was linked to a prostitution ring] with zeal.
Even text messages, allegedly exchanged between Mr. Strauss-Kahn and associates, in which they appear to discuss plans for nights on the town in cities like Vienna, Madrid and Washington, have found their way into the papers this time around.
Yet French privacy protections are among the strictest in the Western world. The Constitution guarantees a right to privacy, as does the European Convention on Human Rights.
While the specifics of these rights are not spelled out under French law, the courts have often interpreted laws in a way that favors public officials seeking to keep their affairs under wraps.
Thomas Roussineau, a lawyer here who specializes in privacy issues, said the lawsuits against newspapers could become benchmark cases in defining the relationship between public figures and the news media in France.
Under existing interpretations of the law, he said, there are generally only two permitted exceptions to public officials’ privacy protection. One is if the events in question have some bearing on an official’s ability to carry out his or her job; the other is if the person has volunteered information.
Because Mr. Strauss-Kahn is no longer a public official and did not seek disclosure, Mr. Roussineau said it could be difficult for the publications to prove either exception in their reporting on the Carlton Affair.
“D.S.K. is nothing anymore, so you do really have to ask yourself the question seriously, whether anyone had a right to know about this,” he said.Meanwhile, the New York Post is among multiple news organizations suggesting that DSK's wife is considering filing for divorce.
Of course, any political plans DSK might have had -- he was considered a shoo-in to be the Socialist candidate in next year's presidential election -- also have been tarnished. The Wall Street Journal suggests he is now among the least-liked public figures in France.
In the blink of a news cycle, DSK went from being a victim of overzealous Manhattan prosecutors and police with a future in France to a disgraced and disliked pol. His name has come up in a French police investigation into a prostitution ring. His Socialist friends shun him. Anne Sinclair, the wealthy wife who stood by him in New York, is off alone at their riad-style house in Morocco, rethinking her future with him, according to her biographer. In a recent poll the French named him the least liked politician in the land, with 71% holding an unfavorable view. Days after his arrest in New York, 57% said they thought he was set up.The BBC examines the lawsuit and the Carlton Affair in this report.