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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It starts again

Yet another trial gets underway in a French court on Wednesday with French maverick Phillipe Karsenty facing trial for allegedly libeling France 2 newscaster Charles Enderlin by disclosing that the Mohamed al-Dura 'killing' was an elaborate fraud. Richard Landes reports that the French chattering classes are circling the wagons to defend Enderlin and France 2.
For the sixth time in as many years, the courts will hear accusations by France2 against citizen Philippe Karsenty for accusing them of having run “staged” footage as news in the case of Muhammad al-Dura. To his devotees, “le petit Mohamed,” as he’s known in France, is “martyr of the world” because, thanks to France2, “the whole world saw” him shot dead, the “target of fire from the Israeli position,” dying in his father’s arms. Except that no one saw him die on film, much less in his father’s arms. On the contrary the overwhelming evidence suggests that it was a scene staged by France2’s cameraman, Talal abu Rahmah, which Charles “Scoop” Enderlin, unknowingly or not, turned into sensational news.
Indeed, few stories better embody the lethal secret de Polichinelle that haunts France today. France2 (and everyone else, as Enderlin is quick to point out), runs staged footage – Pallywood – all the time: it’s a public secret that they openly admit in private but deny in public. “They do it all the time,” Enderlin and his bosses confided privately when confronted with the extensive evidence of staging in his cameraman’s work. But publicly Enderlin insists, especially when confronted with claims that he staged the al-Dura footage, “I have 100 percent confidence in my cameraman, so much that I wouldn’t even think of questioning him.” And yet, when the judges in the last trial saw the footage shot by the key “witness,” France2’s Palestinian cameraman, they dramatically reversed the lower court’s finding, with harsh criticism of Enderlin’s journalistic standards. “And to think I asked for that footage as a favor to France2,” one of the judges later remarked off the record.
Rather than provoke an “aha” moment among the broader profession, however, this decision inspired Enderlin’s colleagues to close ranks. The prestigious Nouvel Obs sponsored a petition in defense of both his honor, and of journalistic right to report freely, without the “chilling” criticism of lay citizens “sapping the energies of good journalists.” The reactions combined medieval honor-driven guild solidarities with medieval credulity: “I don’t care if it’s the Virgin Birth affair, I would tend to believe him. Someone like Charles [Enderlin] simply doesn’t make a story up.” 
Meanwhile Charles’ employer, the state-owned media giant France2, appealed to the highest court, which, despite a strong opinion against from the “Parquet,” (which vigorously defended the value to civil society of allowing such criticisms), ruled that the appeals court had no right to demand the footage, nullified their opinion, and sent the case back to appeals court where it arrives today, same room, same “Palace of Justice” in Paris.
Read the whole thing


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