June 4, 2013 / 6:46 PM / 6 years ago

French lawmakers thwart Hollande's transparency drive

PARIS (Reuters) - French lawmakers diluted President Francois Hollande’s plans to force politicians to declare their wealth and are pushing instead to penalize reporters who publish such information.

French President Francois Hollande smiles before delivering his speech after his visit at the Museum of Civilizations from Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) in Marseille, June 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

The fact that lawmakers from his own party opposed the bill was an extra blow for Hollande, who is grappling with rock-bottom approval ratings and rumblings of a revolt against his policies from a minority of left-wingers.

Stung by the resignation of a budget minister over a secret Swiss bank account, Hollande’s Socialist government drafted a bill in April requiring politicians to declare assets, income and potential conflicts of interest to an independent authority.

The move 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.

Concerned about their privacy, Socialist lawmakers in the lower house of parliament endorsed amendments to the bill on Tuesday so that disclosures would only be made public to people on an electoral list who specifically requested the information.

In a measure that would make journalists think twice before using the information in stories, people who publish disclosed details could face a year in prison and be fined 45,000 euros ($58,600), under the planned amendments.

Some conservative lawmakers said they opposed the idea of media fines as under the planned law financial information would likely leak out to the public anonymously over the Internet rather than be reported by established media.

The amended bill is due to be debated in the lower house of parliament on June 17.

Transparency became a major issue for Hollande when Cahuzac admitted in April, two weeks after quitting his post, that he had been lying for months in denying he had a Swiss account.

($1 = 0.7675 euros)

Reporting by Emile Picy; Writing by Leigh Thomas; editing by Ron Askew

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