John Rosenthal, one of the most astute journalists at work in Europe today, whose work I have featured a number of times here at the Augean Stables, has an excellent article up at PJMedia on the French media’s reaction to the Al Durah affair. For the first time in the history of this blog, not only has one of my posts been mentioned, but still more important, the commentators who contribute so much to the discussion with their learned and lively comments.
Le Nouvel Observateur’s “Appeal for Charles Enderlin” positively exudes such a sense of corporate privilege, as Richard Landes and his commentators on Augean Stables were quick to point out.
Rosenthal examines a number of the signatories (the “List of ignominy”) of signers of the Nouvel Obs petition, including the head of “Reporters without borders” an organization, as Rosenthal points out, one would have expected to view Karsenty as a classic “cyber-dissident” taking on the “grands medias.” Alas, not really an NGO, it appears to be another PGO (para-governmental organizations). I suspect that this list will serve as the starting point for PhD theses in media studies (if civic polities survive).
Hattip to all of you who have contributed.
When it Comes to Al-Dura, Journalists Are Against Free Speech
Despite the Al-Dura ruling, reporter Charles Enderlin can still count on his colleagues to stand by his story.
June 20, 2008 – by John Rosenthal
Earlier this month, the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur launched a surreal “Appeal for Charles Enderlin” in response to a French court judgment clearing media critic Philippe Karsenty of charges of having “defamed” Enderlin and his employer, France 2 public television. The court thus overturned the October 2006 condemnation of Karsenty by a lower court.
A full professional translation of the higher court’s judgment is available here on Richard Landes’s Augean Stables blog. (The complete judgment in French is here.) Richard Landes’s translation of the Nouvel Observateur’s “Appeal for Charles” is here. The “Appeal” has in the meanwhile been signed by hundreds of Enderlin’s colleagues in French journalism, plus several “personalities,” and even some simple “web surfers” [internautes].
I say that it is surreal, since it is by no means clear what the point of the appeal is supposed to be or what exactly the signatories want done “for Charles Enderlin.” It was not, after all, Enderlin who was on trial: he and France 2 were the plaintiffs. The “Appeal for Charles” identifies Karsenty as the “person mainly responsible” for an “obstinate and hateful campaign” against Enderlin. But, as PJM readers will know (and Nouvel Observateur readers might not), Karsenty is in fact just one of numerous critics who have challenged the authenticity of Enderlin’s September 2000 report allegedly showing the killing of the Palestinian boy Mohammed Al-Dura by Israeli troops.
It was indeed France 2’s legal strategy of singling out Karsenty and two other website owners for prosecution – as well as Karsenty’s “obstinate” refusal to be intimidated – that converted him into one of the chief protagonists of what has become the “Al-Dura affair.”
The authors of the “Appeal” – like Enderlin himself in a blog post published shortly after the rendering of the court’s decision – take heart in the fact that the higher court “recognized” that Karsenty’s litigious remarks regarding the Al-Dura report “unquestionably do damage to the honor and reputation of news professionals”: i.e. Enderlin and France 2 as a whole. But the court’s observation in this connection is in fact a mere tautology. In his November 2004 text – in which, incidentally, Karsenty called for the “immediate dismissal” of Enderlin and France 2 news director Arlette Chabot – Karsenty himself describes Enderlin’s Al-Dura report and, above all, France 2’s defense of it as “a masquerade that does dishonor [déshonore] to France and its public television.”
The real question, of course, is whether Karsenty’s criticisms of France 2 are well-founded and whether the underlying accusation that the Al-Dura report was a fake is true – or, in other words, whether it is not in fact, as Karsenty’s remarks suggested, Enderlin and France 2 that brought the “dishonor” upon themselves. The French court did not answer this question. Nor indeed did it have any need to do so.
Read the rest.