Thursday, May 22, 2008

Karsenty, France 2, and French libel laws

Philippe Karsenty is a French citizen who runs the media watchdog site "Media-Ratings". Several years ago he accused "France 2" -- France's main public TV network -- of knowingly broadcasting doctored footage that supposedly showed an innocent Palestinian boy being shot and killed by Israeli soldiers. France 2 sued him for libel and won. Yesterday he won his appeal in a French court. It wasn't easy.

It is disturbing enough that France 2 aired manipulated footage and used it to make false statements to support an inflammatory news piece about Israel.

It is even more disturbing that a private citizen who accuses the French media of doing this thus opens himself to being sued for libel by the same French media. And here I thought libel laws are supposed to protect private individuals from being libelled BY the media! France supposedly has a free press. Apparently that means that the French press is to be free from criticism and is in turn free to suppress criticism by suing critics for libel.

It wasn't as if Karsenty was making an idle accusation. He had spent many months and many euros studying the footage, despite not having access to all the dailies. He was able to show the court that Mohammed al-Dura was actually alive and moving at the point in the sequence when the French narrator said he was dead. There was no other footage of an actually dead boy. Karsenty also had a ballistic expert demonstrate that the shots fired couldn't have come from the direction of the Israeli snipers.

You can be sued for libel for this in France.