French armies communication in the turmoil

(B2) Between the French armies (led by Florence Parly) and journalists, the gap is widening. The ministry’s communication is being called into question

Communication during the coronavirus pandemic was often erratic, if not incomplete and late – return of the Charles de Gaulle’s onboard air group (credit: DICOD)

Misleading public information

The Association of Defence Journalists (AJD – of which B2 is a member) decided to publish an open letter, the second within a few weeks. What journalists are asking the ministry to do is simple: give information to the public, clearly, honestly and quickly.

Some dysfunctions

The dysfunctions are numerous: lack of response in time, arbitrary selection of journalists, pressure exerted when the article (or the question) displeases, (deliberate) lies or not of the communicators …

A political will

It’s not a matter of know-how here. The army and the minister are well endowed with it. And most of them are (very) competent. There is a political will to mislead the public through journalists. Let’s be clear, we are closer to misinformation.  The affair of the contamination of the personnel of the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle at Covid-19 is just one example among others.

A lack of courage

A ‘conciliation’ meeting was to take place on Tuesday (9 June). It failed. The minister’s communication adviser (Grégoire Devaux) chose to ignore the meeting. This is not surprising. The communicator is quicker to give good points and bad points and practice censorship than to do his job. Let’s be brave and run away…

Europe slung over the shoulder

For our part, we have always been very surprised at the lack of availability of the French Minister of the Armed Forces at meetings of defence ministers, whether at European Union or NATO level. The Minister is always in a hurry. Yet European defence is an official priority. To get an explanation for the decisions taken or the rare press releases (praising the ministerial policy), one has to hold on. In concrete terms, it is easier today to approach a minister from any country (including the United States) than an unreachable French minister.

A fact that has its importance

It should be noted that the AJD is not in the habit of bringing this type of debate to the public arena. Its members are rather ‘discreet’ and ‘disciplined’, as the sector they cover requires. And if there is an explanation, it usually takes place behind closed doors. This public witnessing – the first since the creation of the association in 1979 – should therefore not be neglected, as it is at present. It must be treated seriously, and at the highest level, up to the office of the President of the Republic (Emmanuel Macron), since the office of the Minister of Defence (Florence Parly) seems to consider it a peccadillo.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Download the first letter of May 20 and the second letter of June 9

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde

Rédacteur en chef du site B2. Diplômé en droit européen de l'université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne et auditeur 65e session IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale. Journaliste depuis 1989, fonde B2 - Bruxelles2 en 2008. Correspondant UE/OTAN à Bruxelles pour Sud-Ouest (auparavant Ouest-France et France-Soir).