Though the Macron hack took place 48 hours before the final round of voting, the media there desisted from reporting it in detail

By Sucheta Dasgupta

Unlike America where the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails and leaking of documents became a huge story resulting in a big setback to her presidential campaign, France, which also experienced a similar happening on election eve, did not see it play out in the same manner.

A few days ago, Clinton, who returned to public life after a six-month break, had famously declared, “If the election happened on October 27 [instead of November 8, 2016], I would be your president.” She was referring to FBI director Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 about the incident which raised doubts in the minds of the electorate regarding her capabilities.

On Friday, a collection of links to torrent files appeared on the anonymous publishing site PasteBin. The 9GB trove was reportedly an archive of leaked emails from En Marche, the party of Emmanuel Macron, then the frontrunner for the French presidential polls, due to take place on Sunday. Here, too, Russian interests were widely blamed. But though the leaks came to be known just 48 hours before the run-off, Macron emerged winner, defeating Le Pen handsomely by a 66.1-33.9 margin.

The reason for this may be attributed to the French legal system whereby reporting any news that is doubtful but can exert a huge influence on the voter’s mind is disallowed.

As Reuters reports, the French election commission warned social and traditional media not to publish the hacked emails lest they influence the vote outcome.

“We knew that this kind of risk would be present during the presidential campaign, because it has happened elsewhere. Nothing will be left without a response,” French President Francois Hollande told French news agency AFP.

As a result, most news outlets including the leading French paper Le Monde published the news of hack but did not publish the content of any of the leaked documents before the election. In its website, Le Monde said they took this decision partly because there was not enough time to report on it properly, but also because the dossiers had been published on purpose 48 hours before the election with the clear aim of affecting the vote.

Many television channels did not mention the news and only one or two outlets published it in detail.

Meanwhile, losing candidate Marine Le Pen barred several media outlets—including Politico and Buzzfeed—from attending her election night party. Describing her understanding of press freedom as “degraded”, Le Monde, too, stayed away out of solidarity. However, do not be quick to compare her with Donald Trump, the US president, who is infamous for ruffling media feathers. Macron, France’s new president, also barred Sputnik and RT from campaign events, including his election night win celebration. Incidentally, Buzzfeed and Politico had been barred from attending Trump’s campaign events last year.