PARIS (EJP)---The head of a French media watchdog has called on French President Nicolas Sarkozy to help issue an apology from the state-owned TV channel France 2 “for broadcasting a staged killing of a Palestinian boy in 2000.”
A Paris appeals court on May 21 found Philippe Karsenty, director of "Media-Ratings", an online media commentary site, not guilty of slandering France 2 television when he questioned the veracity of a tv report about the killing of the 12-year-old Mohammed Al-Dura on 30 September 2000.
Karsenty has accused France 2’s longtime Jerusalem correspondent, Charles Enderlin, of selectively editing and manipulating images of the boy’s death during a gunfight between Israelis and Palestinians at the Netzarim junction, in the Gaza Strip.
The France 2 images shocked the world, made al-Dura an icon in the Arab world and provoked widespread Palestinian and Arab anger against Israel.
Enderlin’s report, based on footage taken by the station’s Palestinian cameraman in Gaza, accused Israeli troops of killing the boy as he and his father took cover.
Karsenty accused Enderlin, who was not on location during the fighting, of having manipulated the footage that showed Al-Dura’s dead.
In a reversal of an October 2006 ruling against Karsenty, the appeals court’s judge found the media critic “exercised in good faith his right of criticism against a power, that of the press.” “He didn’t exceed the limits of freedom of expression recognized by the European Human Rights Convention.,” the Paris court said.
It said examination of the footage shown at a hearing in February did not dispel questions over its authenticity.
While it did not issue any comment on the court decision, France 2 appeared to stand behind its Jerusalem correspondent and appealed against the latest ruling to France’s Supreme Court.
"As the de facto CEO of France 2, President Sarkozy has the power to conduct an internal investigation of the TV station in order to separate the truth from the lies," Karsenty told EJP, stressing that the case has "far-reaching and universal implications" for media responsibility.
"The next battle will be political," Karsenty says, adding that he is rather interested by the root of the matter than by the proceedings at the Supreme Court.
Observers in Paris noted that French newspapers, with rare exceptions like the daily Le Monde, didn’t report the Court of Appeals’s ruling, while the international press made a large coverage of the issue.
Petition in French weekly
Moreover, the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur published last week a petition supporting Charles Enderlin against the court ruling and denouncing the “stubborn and heinous campaign against the France 2 reporter’s professional dignity.” It rejected the accusation of fraud and the notion that the incident was a staged scene.
The petition has already been signed by some eighty important French writers and journalists.
"These people have been visibly enrolled in a corporatist way without having th possibility to look into the dossier," Karsenty said. "This is something worrying for the freedom of the press," he added. "If we follow their view, Zola had no right to be interested in the Dreyfus affair because he knew nothing about military issues and was only a common writer."
"It is no surprise that the charges that Israeli soldiers deliberately murder children, just as the Nazis murdered Jewish children, is widely believed in France as well in the rest of Europe," Karsentys says.
The media critic deplored the fact that Israeli government has remained silent on this issue. An Israeli Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said that "the Israeli government has a policy not to attack or to sue any media outlet in a court of law, not in Israel and certainly not outside of Israel."
"If the government took legal steps against a foreign media, the local media in that country would automatically take the side of the media, and public opinion will also be driven against Israel,"Palmor said.
Karsenty says Jews in France believe that American Jewish organizations can play an important role by publicly supporting his position in the French media.
But he is much critical of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Paris’s representative, Valérie Hoffenberg, who he says, "did everything to undermine our efforts."
Hoffenberg denied Karsenty’s charges and said on the contrary that she helped him in this issue. "But we don’t have the same methods. I am more working on a discreet and efficient manner. When he asked me to express publicly my opinion on the matter, I didn’t want because this is not the way I am working," she told EJP.
In a letter sent to Hoffenberg, Richard Prasquier, head of CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish organizations, denounced Karsenty’s attacks against the AJC’s representative as "irresponsible and unbearable."
He said he "only wants to know the truth about the France 2 report." "I support the legitimate and remarkable work Mr Karsenty has been doing since several years in difficult conditions," Prasquier added.
The Jewish leader has called for the setting up of an independent multidisciplinary commission of inquiry "to establish the reality of the facts."