Allegations of Russian influence have dogged the recent US elections. With France gearing up for the first round of its presidential elections on 23 April, should we be prepared for similar accusations of interference? Or is such talk merely anti-Russian paranoia?

At the beginning of April, the French polling commission issued a warning over what is said was a misleading Russian news report claiming that the centre-right candidate, François Fillon, had regained the lead. French opinion polls are strictly regulated, and most mainstream polls put the centrist Emmanuel Macron in the lead. Macron’s campaign has accused the Kremlin, through state-controlled news outlets such as RT and Sputnik, of spreading “fake news” in an effort to swing public opinion against him.

Not everyone is convinced. We had a comment from Catherine, who is highly sceptical that the Kremlin is trying to swing the vote. She says she has yet to see any evidence.

To get a response, we spoke to Christophe Deloire, Director-General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Has he seen any evidence that Russia is trying to influence the French elections?

deloireIt’s undeniable that some Russian media outlets are clearly influenced by the Kremlin and are spreading information that is clearly biased – and probably more than biased. They clearly have preferences for some candidates versus others. And it’s also very clear that these Kremlin-run media outlets are spreading false or unverified claims about some candidates.

Finally, it’s very clear that they prefer somebody like François Fillon over Emmanuel Macron. They probably have no influence directly in the French mainstream media, but if you are looking at your Facebook wall you can notice a lot of content influenced by Russian media outlets.

Next up, we had a comment from Doughty, who believes that Marine Le Pen is a “puppet” of Vladimir Putin. A similar charge has been levelled against Donald Trump in the US. Is it a fair accusation? What Le Pen’s official position on Russia?

deloireThe question of France’s relationship with Russia has been at the heart of the election campaign, and all the candidates have been asked questions about what they would like to do with Russia. It’s very clear that Marine Le Pen wants to have very good relations with the Kremlin, as she was received officially for a meeting with Putin very recently. This was just a few hours before lots of opposition people were arrested during a demonstration, and ten journalists were arrested in Moscow during demonstrations the day after Le Pen met with Putin.

Other candidates have also been accused of having a pro-Russian bias. Some of them, including Jean-Luc Mélenchon, have made very clear statements that they consider the diplomatic approach could be changed, but it doesn’t mean that they approve of the way Putin runs Russia or what Russia does in the rest of the world.

Finally, we had a comment from Talis, who believes Russia is waging a “cyberwar” against France, just as it did in the US elections. So far, we haven’t seen the same kind of high-profile hacking as we did in the US, but there has been a flood of so-called “fake news” stories. So, how can French journalists fight back against this sort of false reporting?

deloireJournalists have to do their jobs. That is to say: to verify information and to provide the public with concrete facts. And I think that French journalists do this work. The problem is how to really spread this factual information, and how to bypass the walls of convictions and opinions, and how to rebuild trust so that people believe the honest and verified information more than the false information they would like to believe. I think that’s the next challenge for journalists; it’s not only a challenge for French journalists, it’s not only about the campaign but how to rebuild trust. It’s now the key work that has to be done by the media industry and by journalists themselves.

Could Russia try to influence the French election? How can French journalists fight back against “fake news” stories? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!


50 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Marko Martinović

    Every country is trying to influence every election. EU is especially trying to influence it. EU is looking more and moore oppressive and controling.

    • Wouter Russchen

      not relevant to the discussion at all…

    • Franck Néo Legon

      Of course it is, every country in the world tries to influence the elections in other countries to its own profit, that’s just the way world goes.

    • Stefania Portici

      influenzare, costringere, forzare, ricattare, rovesciare governi….. con metodi diversi ……ma ha ragione Frank (Y)

  2. Bobi Dochev

    You are fucking idiots! After US now they influence French election and after a month it will be the German one?!
    That is not even hilarious, it is wretched and can bring only regrets!

    • Michael Šimková

      Why do we have to debate anything? Why can’t everyone just believe whatever Bart believes?

    • Bart Vd B

      My beliefs have nothing to do with it… Will a/the (fact based) truth come out by debating this with a bunch of people on fb? And if in the (highly) unlikely event it does, will it make any (positive) change/impact?

  3. Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    Oh sure. Just like it did the US. When in doubt, blame Russia.

    Meanwhile lets fund the bombing of Syria, make refugees the center of attention to distract the masses, while we build an oil line from the UAE, who we are butt buddies with. Remember Lybia? Boy oh boy, did we bring them freedom.
    But yeah, fuck Russia, they cause nothing but trouble for us

    • Chris Pyak

      It’s PUTIN who bombed Aleppo. It is PUTIN who arms Assad and is responsible for 250.000 deaths and millions of refugees.

  4. Rodney Jerkins

    lol what a ridiculous article, one thing is crystal clear: Russia don’t give a shit about things like that! Who doesn’t get it is doable blind!!!

  5. Thomas Beavitt

    And if it were?

    The correct answer is that of course Russian is trying to influence the French elections. It would be rather surprising if it weren’t, especially since so many EU member states have been basically tricked into supporting economic sanctions against Russia to the detriment of their own economies (anyone remember Victoria “f**k the EU” Nuland?)…

    Then is it in EU members states’ interests to change their policies towards Russia? Almost certainly!

    Is it in Russia’s interests to try to persuade electorates in EU member states that they have been fooled and that it is in their interests to elect a government that will change the damaging sanctions policies. Duh!

    The real question is whether the EU as a bloc can continue to think of itself as essentially under a liberal-democratic regime when, increasingly, genuine democracy results in people voting for anything but more (neo) liberalism. Is French democracy so weak that its political leaders cannot effectively counter Russian arguments? Then it probably deserves for its government to be bypassed and for it simply to be directly governed by… well, take your pick. The USA? Global capitalism? China? Russia? Germany?

  6. Michael Šimková

    It seems that way, but they’re doing a piss poor job of it. Her connection with Putin and desire to take France out of the European Union are probably the least attractive things about her with French voters. Unfortunately I think her opponents are not really as effective as they could be at taking advantage of this. They are too focused on burkinis and Islam and other such identitarian religious parafernalia, which is where Le Pen is strongest and garners the most sympathy. They draw little attention to any of her other policy proposals, which is making this election too much about Islam.

    An election about Islam is Le Pen’s to win at this point, because the left has been catastrophically naive, inept, hypocritical and foolish about Islamic fundamentalism and they are not trusted, nor are their arguments. Clinging to those arguments only bolsters whoever the opposition is. But there is much more at stake in France and for the future of France in this election than Islamic fundamentalism.

  7. Andrew Potts

    Looking forward to the post in the name of fairness examining will Georg Soras money be used in a stop Pen manner. Can such funding be traced and to whom.

  8. Maia Alexandrova

    This question sounds like “Is Russia trying to influence the rotation of the Earth and how can we fight back against the fake news that they are not trying to do so?” It is just ridiculous – full of assumptions! Just because you hate someone doesn’t mean that they are what you think they are. May be you are the victim of fake news, otherwise you would not be asking the question how to fight against it when the answer is very obvious – show the truth! If the French media have any provable facts, they should show them and explain how things really are and people will understand, but just repeating certain assumptions doesn’t make a fact and this is why such “news” are not believable. Truth is always stronger than lies. May be this is why Russian media outperform the anti-Russian ones – because they show real, provable facts, rather than present rumours as facts. When you stick to the truth, you will not make a mistake. This is how to fight against fake news and win.

  9. Nando Aidos

    I do not have an inside track to answer, but it is extremely likely and all care is not enough!

    • Ena

      lol nothing is wrong with them as long as intellectual engineering took place since 1st grade at school everybody just follows propaganda in Western EU people are better slaves than in East

  10. Fabrice Bordier

    They try to, funnily since Trump fired rockets on Syria, Marine Le Pen does not speak about him anymore. So? The winner is?

  11. Stefania Portici

    i francesi si influenzano da soli, il problema non gli viene da fuori ma sta dentro il loro Paese.
    French influence alone, the problem is not from the outside but is inside their country

  12. Ivan Burrows


    You think the French people are to stupid to work it out for themselves ?

    You don’t need Putin to turn people against the EU, Brussels is doing a perfect job of it.

  13. Mirela Moldovan

    Since EU has imposed sanctions to Russia for what they did in Ukraina they try in any way to break it :(

  14. catherine benning

    Is the West trying to influence politics throughout the world. and if not satisfied with any government, not backed by them, start bombing the shiite out of them until the oppositions people are annihilated. Look at Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and on and on.

    Has Russia done that in the last 70 years? I don’t think so. But now it appears to have become the democratic opposition to the Western powers.

    I don’t see Russia trying to affect the French vote one way or another. However, the West, who has a media that refuses to give the same air time to each candidate, tries to sell this anti Putin theory repeatedly. The West accuse the Russians head on as well as covertly.

    What is not liked about Russian news is, they give Le Pen, Gilders, Trump, Sanders, Farage, as much coverage as they do Fillon, Macron and any other runner there may be. This is not liked by the west as it shows them to be hypocrites.

    Lets take it further. Who are the Western media? Who own the press? Who is Sky News, BBC, CBS, Fox and the rest? All jumping rather oddly to the same tune, little or no alternative views. All equally politically correct and all having little or no input from investigative journalists regarding facts. Just take the certainty that none of them can release or find the truth in world matters any more. No ability to investigate without bias for the front runner who is backed by the powerful.

    And another odd fact is, when the politician who is running in any Western country appears to offer the public an alternative to what they have, the media goes viral. They get crazy in their exaggerated presentation of the candidate. Yet, when this alternative man/woman may be elected, within a couple of months they too begin spitting out the line the preferred candidate offered. Take Hollande, Tsipras, Trump and many others.

    So all in all, we, the public, cannot win, as the real candidate of the peoples choice ends up censored or in some way converted to what they said previously they found repugnant. In other words, they knew what the electorate wanted and would vote for, so sold them the line that they too were for those principles, only to find, once elected, the peoples voice had to remain stifled.

    So, why the fight, Le Pen, if she wins, will no doubt end up just as big a changeling as Hollande or Sarkozy. And it has nothing to do with Russia.

  15. Jason Picci

    Russia must be stopped!! France like other countries must only obey the orders of the Western Anglo-Khazarian Empire. How dare these oarsmen Viking sub-humans defend themselves from our superior debt-mongering dominance! We
    must crush the Huns once and for all!!!

  16. Dorin Crainic

    What do you think, EU didn’t try to influence the elections in Russia? Who put this clown, Yeltzin, which almost destroyed all the country, in power?

  17. Marco Bianchi

    Why don’t you asked “Is NATO trying to influence the political situation in other countries with fake revolutions”?

  18. Rumy Milten

    Stop blaming Russia for everything. Take some responsibility for the EU irrational actions. Jeez…

  19. Ivan Burrows


    The French people do not need a conspiracy theory about Russian interference, the evidence of EU failure is all around them.

  20. SD

    Russian agents everywhere, Russian hackers everywhere, Russia is behind this, Russia is behind that. Let’s be real every Power does such things, everytime the USA and France did “Regime Change” they were meddling in other countries Political system. They have even meddled in Russias Politics. Imagine the World came together and put America, France, UK, Russia, Nato etc. on trial for every act of meddling and the prosecution had full and unhindered access to original cia, mi6, fsb etc. files.
    These nations would be prosecuted dozens of times over and the USA would probably be #1 or 2 with the UK after that certainly Russia and France.
    This whole discussion is lame. Like a thief accusing a thief of being a thief.

  21. Ivan Čorak

    Every major power influences or at least tries to influence election results in other countries in lesser or greater degree.

  22. Vytautas Vėžys

    All hail glorious Putin…
    He bought US elections
    He faked GB Brexit results…
    Now he is influencing France…

    Truly most powerful man in history according to media…

  23. Любомир Иванчев

    Seems like Russia is the Eternal Arch Enemy now. If anything bad happens in Europe and the US, this automatically means Putin is behind it. I bet they’ll start blaming him also for the next flu epidemic.

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