France names culture minister

Frederic Mitterand is nephew of former prexy

MADRID — Frederic Mitterrand, nephew of former French president Francois Mitterrand, was named France’s minister of culture and communications Tuesday. He replaces Christine Albanel.

Part of a cabinet reshuffle by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the appointment of the 62-year-old Mitterrand was described as a “superb symbolic operation” by Gallic newspaper Le Figaro and a “great catch” by Le Monde.

Mitterrand joins Sarkozy’s government as the French president faces one of the sternest cultural tests of his mandate: salvaging his stringent antipiracy and Internet legislation. Approved in May by France’s National Assembly, the law was ruled unconstitutional by France’s Constitutional Court on June 10 for empowering a government agency to cut off repeat offenders’ Internet connections.

Only judges can deprive people of a fundamental right such as Web access, the court said. According to one poll, 60% of French people supported the ruling.

Mitterrand will lend the prestige of his family name and his own distinguished career to Sarkozy’s attempt to reintroduce the legislation, which envisages accelerated court cases for Internet pirates.

A left-winger who argues he can work with Sarkozy, just as Sarkozy served his socialist uncle from 1992-94 as minister of the economy, Mitterrand has owned arthouses, presented culture magazines for French TV, directed a feature film of “Madame Butterfly” and worked as the director of Rome’s Villa Medicis.

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