Memes of Lethal Journalism: You’re Smearing Us (Reporters without Borders version)

Reporters without borders

Among the defenses of Enderlin’s Al Durah story comes from an organization that considers itself “Reporters without Borders,” a variant of “Doctors without Borders,” and a “Human Rights” NGO that shares much of the agenda of the other global, progressive organizations of this kind. (When Reporters without Borders first launched it’s annual report on press freedom, it gave Israel a lower rating than the West Bank, a rating that would send most Palestinians into either fits or laughter or tears (depending on whether they wanted a decent society or not). Here note the lack of substance from an organization that considers itself a voice for the profession.



Charles Enderlin

Read in Arabic (بالعربية)

The Israeli government has just published a report of its investigation into French TV station France 2’s controversial coverage of 12-year-old Palestinian Muhammad al-Durrah’s death during rioting in the Gaza Strip on 30 September 2000 and the disputed claim that he was killed by a shot fired from Israeli positions.

The report’s release came three days ahead today’s announcement by a Paris appeal court that it will finally issue its ruling on 26 June in the defamation case between France 2’s Jerusalem correspondent, Charles Enderlin, and Media Rating founder Philippe Karsenty, who suggested that the teenager’s death was staged.

The Israeli report, which is very critical of France 2’s staff, was produced by a committee consisting of representatives of various ministries, the police and the Israel Defence Forces. It was appointed by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu last September.

“While the Israeli government has the right to respond publicly to a media report it regards as damaging, the nature and substance of this report are questionable and give the impression of a smear operation,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

Not clear whether Deloire has read the report, and if so, that he did more than realize that it was strongly critical of Enderlin. But unlike real smear tactics, all the criticism is considered, documented and reasoned. So what, in Deloire’s mind distinguishes “smear” from “criticism”?

“As regards the substance, Charles Enderlin has always said he would be ready to testify to a commission of enquiry in conditions that guaranteed impartiality and independence. These conditions were not respected, and Enderlin was not asked to testify. Nor was he asked to provide his unused footage of the incident.

Is this a press release for Enderlin? He has made many promises, and reneged whenever someone took him up on the matter (including supplying the tapes to the Israelis). If a prestigious organization wants to call for an international committee of investigation, fine. But it’s been done before and if it’s failed it’s because Enderlin doesn’t want it.

“Above all, the committee’s published findings consist of just 11 pages on the ‘facts’ of the case and has another 30 pages condemning the way France 2’s report was used. We think it is absurd and unacceptable to accuse Enderlin’s report of having ‘played a major role in inciting terrorism and violence, both in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and worldwide’.”

Absurd? Really? The absurd here, is that an organization that wants to be a beacon of real journalism in the 21st century is capable of so strongly worded an essay on a subject they apparently know nothing more about than what they’re informed of by only one side.

The committee claims to have based its findings on France 2’s raw video footage of the incident. Enderlin says he posted all of the footage online.

Did you check? Where is it?

Is that what the committee used? The report’s authors do not say. It claims there is no evidence to support Enderlin’s account of the incident but produces no evidence to support its own claim.

All the evidence the committee worked with and more is available online.

The committee claims that evidence suggests that neither Muhammad al-Durrah nor his father, Jamal Al-Durrah, sustained a gunshot injury that day. In particular, it claims that no trace of blood was found the next day at the spot where they were filmed. The report, which does not name the source of this claim, also claims there was no sign of blood in the video footage.

That’s been aired a thousand times online. Did you even try to find it? Apparently, the authors of this piece know nothing of the evidence and rely entirely on what Enderlin says. Is this serious reporting (without borders)?

According to the committee’s findings, the broadcast footage excluded a movement of Muhammad al-Durrah’s hand and elbow that can be seen in the raw footage after Enderlin’s voice said he had been killed.

Note the feet rising behind the boy as he slowly and deliberately lowers his arm after raising it to look out. Is this the behavior of someone dying of a stomach wound.

The committee quotes Dr. Ricardo Nachman, deputy director of the Tel Aviv forensic centre, as saying the boy could not have moved in that way if, as France 2 claimed, he had already been hit by gunfire.

Yes. And Nachman notes, “you don’t have to be an expert to understand this.”

The Franco-Israeli surgeon Yehuda David is quoted in the report’s appendix as saying the father’s injuries could have been sustained prior to the incident filmed by France 2’s cameraman. But David bases his claim on medical reports and did not examine Jamal Al-Durrah himself after the incident.

Not on medical reports, but on footage that Enderlin had Talal Abu Rahma take of Talal’s wounds, which correspond to David’s surgery, and not to the Jordanian report which does not in any way correspond to the injuries shown.

“This report is absurd,” Enderlin said. “How can the report’s authors omit the fact that Jamal Al-Durrah was hospitalized the next day in the Jordanian capital of Amman? How can they claim that the Israel Defence Forces did not open fire?”

More repetition of what “their guy” has to say. The report does not say the IDF did not open fire. It says that during the incident in question, none of the footage that we have available – France2, AP, Reuters – shows any evidence of fire from the Israeli position and that Enderlin had no business saying the fire came from the IDF position since it was based entirely on his cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, whose record for honesty, especially in this matter, is less than stellar.

A journalist’s friend, Guillaume Weill-Raynal, added: “No ballistic report has ever been produced to support these claims, which were already being made prior to this report.”

Guillaume was seated at Enderlin’s bench in court several times during the trials. He is an ardent (and rather politicized) friend… not journalist’s friend, but the journalist under criticism’s friend. Try his brother Clement Weill-Raynal, who’s coming out with a book on the subject and agrees with the report.

Barak Ravid, the Israeli daily Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent, said: “This report on the Muhammad al-Durrah case is probably one of the least convincing documents produced by the Israeli government in recent years.”

So we get the quotes we want, we don’t consult the evidence, and we conclude that the claims in the report are unsubstantiated. A nice example of lethal journalism in defense mode.

Add a Comment