Setback for Hollande’s transparency drive

Bill to force politicians to declare their wealth diluted by legislators who propose penalties for reporters instead.

Hollande''s Transprency Plans Blocked
Legislators who voted against the bill on Tuesday included members of Hollande's own Socialist party [AP]

French politicians have diluted President Francois Hollande’s plans to make politicians declare their wealth in a transparency drive. They have also backed harsh penalties for journalists who publish the information.

After the resignation of a budget minister over a secret Swiss bank account, Hollande’s government drafted a bill in April to force politicians to declare their assets and income to an independent authority.

However, members of the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament, who worried about their privacy, including Hollande’s own Socialist Party, voted on Tuesday in favour of an amended version of the bill.

The new version would only provide the information to people who specifically requested it.

Besides, it would ban publication of the details: any reporter who publishes the information would be subject to a jail sentence of one year and could pay a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000).

The original legislation planned by Hollande was aimed at making the French political system one of the most transparent among Western countries and restoring voter confidence after the scandal over Jerome Cahuzac’s undeclared Swiss account.

The bill is part of a package of legislation that aims to clamp down on fraud and corruption, notably by stepping up the powers of tax inspectors and customs agents.

The legislation also grants legal protection for whistleblowers on economic and financial crimes. Previously only those exposing organised crime had enjoyed such protection.

The package will be reviewed by the upper house, the Senate, next month before returning to the National Assembly for a final vote.

Source: News Agencies