Jean-Pierre Elkabbach has been on all fronts, from all eras. One of France's best-known political journalists has died at the age of 86, after a long battle with illness. Over the course of fifty years of career, this native of Oran has covered all the political upheavals of French society, from the election of François Mitterrand in 1981 to that of Emmanuel Macron "the outsider" in 2017.
A few months ago, he published Les rives de la mémoire with Robert Laffont, recounting his youth in Algeria and taking the reader with him on his press trips alongside General de Gaulle, his interviews with Nelson Mandela or Richard Nixon, via Vladimir Putin. With exchanges with the greatest world leaders, Jean-Pierre Elkabbach tells his entourage to have a time stolen his father's press card for France Soir on which he put his photo to attend events.
His intimate talks with President Mitterrand contributed to the latter's legend. Jean-Pierre Elkabbach conducted the last interview with the former President of the Republic on 12 September 1994 on France 2, during which the Head of State spoke of his cancer and his activities during the period of the Occupation.
François Mitterrand and Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, in March 1988, during a broadcast on Europe 1. JOEL ROBINE / AFP
From Antenne 2 to Europe 1, via France Inter, La Cinq, France 3, Public Sénat or CNEWS in his last years, the journalist was known for his outspokenness and his mythical verbal jousts impetuously launched at politicians. "What color do you prefer for the wall?", it is with this sentence for the least sibylline that Jean-Pierre Elkabbach began, for example, the interview of André Vallini, at the time Secretary of State for Territorial Reform, on Europe 1 in May 2014. "For the wall, what wall?" replied André Vallini. "The wall against which your territorial reform will be shattered," Elkabbach retorted. A provocation in the image of this impertinent journalist whose verbal jousting with Georges Marchais remain in the memories.