Why was news of Islamic terror cell arrests in France kept hidden for 20 days?

Two terror cases, two very different media responses

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody

When 3,000 police raided the homes of 25 Reichsbürger movement suspects in Germany, the entire world knew about it immediately. In fact, the media was aware the raid was coming weeks in advance, which meant journalists were at the right place at the right time to photograph and film the suspects being paraded out of their homes, resulting in maximum coverage in Germany and abroad.

A very different story unfolded in France regarding a case involving seven young Islamic migrant radicals in the French city of Strasbourg, who were arrested after being suspected of organizing a terror attack.

Not only were there no television crews present or photos of the Islamists being walked out of their homes, but the arrests, which occurred on Nov. 18, were only made public a whopping 20 days after they took place, on Dec. 8.

FranceInfo, which first reported on the alleged terror group, still only offered a few details about the case, such as if weapons were found or what targets they had in mind. The report details that two suspects were charged with planning violent acts in France and placed in custody. The other five suspects have since been released. The two defendants had recently entered the country, according to a source close to the investigation contacted by FranceInfo, and are of Russian and Tajik nationality.

The arrests occurred one week before the opening of the Christmas market in Strasbourg, which traditionally attracts over 2 million visitors. France suffered a Christmas market terror attack in Strasbourg on Dec. 11, 2018, when Cherif Chekatt opened fire on people there, killing five and injuring 11 others.

In 2000, an attack was foiled around this time of year as well when four men were arrested in Frankfurt, Germany. They were planning to attack the cathedral and the Christmas market in Strasbourg in the name of the Al-Qaeda terror cell. In total, over 250 people have been killed in Islamist terrorist attacks in France since just 2015, including the beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty and the deadly Bataclan nightclub shooting.

Even if the terror threat from this particular group turns out to be overblown, given Strasbourg’s history dealing with terror attacks, these arrests are notable, and a terror raid right before Christmas is usually not something the police and newspapers just forget to report on for 20 days. More details on what the suspects were actually planning and how far along they were is likely to be newsworthy information, especially weeks after the suspects’ initial arrests — but information remains sparse.

Could there be political factors at work that kept the investigation from making any real splash in the French news? In a country where the right is gaining rapidly and questions on immigration and Islam are growing, news of migrants involved in yet another planned terror attack is sure to generate only more skepticism from an already very skeptical public.

The news of the alleged terror cell would have also inconveniently contradicted French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement this month claiming that immigration is “a part of France’s DNA. It is the strength of our country,” despite admitting just in October that half the crimes in Paris are committed by foreigners.

The mayor of Strasbourg. Jeanne Barseghian, is a member of the Greens, which is known for its radical pro-immigration stance. That is not to say she had any political influence on the timing or release of information related to this terror case, but undoubtedly, Strasbourg’s public administration is very much to the left and at the very least had a motive to keep this story off the front pages, especially so close to the opening of the city’s Christmas market.

In contrast, the Reichsbürger raid in Germany and the publicity attached to it served a clear political purpose from the outset. There was no 20-day information blackout. Now, the government there is already moving forward with plans to restrict gun rights and discussing a ban on the conservative Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which are two long-term goals of the current government.

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