French Media Analyst Convicted of Defamation, Fined in Mohammed al-Dura Case

Philippe Karsenty fined 7,000 euros for accusing France-2 of staging Palestinian boy's death by Israeli fire in Gaza.

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In this Sept. 30, 2000 file image from television, Jamal al-sutra signals his position while protecting his 12-year-old son Mohammed al-Dura, as they shelter behind a barrel from crossfire
In this Sept. 30, 2000 file image from television, Jamal al-sutra signals his position while protecting his 12-year-old son Mohammed al-Dura, as they shelter behind a barrel from crossfire Credit: AP

A French media analyst was convicted of defamation on Wednesday for accusing a French television network of staging the death of a Palestinian boy.

Philippe Karsenty was fined 7,000 euros for accusing state television news network France-2 of staging the death of Mohammed al-Dura in a firefight between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Following the conviction, Karsenty decried the Paris Court of Appeals' verdict as "outrageous."

The footage of al-Dura, which was first broadcast on September 30, 2000, showed the terrified 12-year-old boy and his father, amid a furious exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip. It then cut to the motionless boy slumped in his father's lap. The report blamed the Israeli army for the child's death, which Israel vehemently denies.

The footage galvanized anti-Israeli sentiment more than a decade ago, and shaped perspectives of the Mideast conflict during the second Palestinian intifada. The al-Dura case has long stirred emotions in Israel, tapping into a larger sense of the Jewish state being victimized in the media.

Just last month, the Israeli government issued a new report on the incident, saying France-2's report was misleading, provides no evidence and was part of a smear campaign against Israel.

On November 22, 2004, Karsenty, a French Jewish media analyst, wrote on his website Media Ratings that al-Dura's death was staged and that France-2's conduct "disgraces France and its public broadcasting system."

A few weeks later, France-2 and its Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, who filed the report, sued Karsenty for defamation. Two years later he was found guilty and was ordered to pay 1,000 euros in compensation, in addition to 3,000 euros for trial expenses. That same day, Karsenty filed an appeal, which resulted in a 2008 ruling overturning his conviction.

Over the past decade, Karsenty has amassed hours of video footage on the day of the shooting. At the heart of his claim is that France-2 reported that the father and son received a total of 15 high-velocity bullets, but in the video neither appears to be bleeding. He says the firefight is real, but the shooting of the man and boy was staged for the camera.

"I am serene because I know the truth will come out," Karsenty said. "Despite 15 bullets, not one drop of blood was on their clothes, their bodies, the wall they were leaning against."

In February 2012, the French Supreme Court quashed the appeals court's decision to overturn the conviction and sent the case back to the appeals court, which on Wednesday upheld the original conviction of Karsently.

Gaza's militant Hamas rulers said Wednesday's verdict confirmed that Israel and their supporters lied about the military's practices in the coastal territory. "They deceive and cover their crimes in front of the media and the world," said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

France-2's lawyer Benedicte Amblard hailed the decision as a victory for journalists, allowing them to retain confidence in their work.

Charles Enderlin, France-2 Jerusalem correspondent, said he and France Television welcomed Wednesday's decision.

"Today's result is a relief," he said, but added that it did not put the matter to rest. Enderlin, a French-Israeli national, said conspiracy theorists continue to hound them over the incident. He said that despite years of litigation and Israeli officials accusing him of fabrication, he welcomed an investigation.

Philippe Karsenty, founder of the French online media watchdog, Media Ratings, addresses reporters at Paris court house, Wednesday May 22, 2013.Credit: AP

"We are ready whenever Israel wants to go for a professional investigation following international standards," he told The Associated Press.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said he had no comment on a case that delved into the intricacy of French defamation law. He said, however, that the Israeli position on the al-Dura case remains unchanged.

"It is improbable, not to say impossible, that the bullets which hit Jamal and Mohammed al-Dura came from the Israeli position," he said. "Where they did come from remains subject to many hypotheses, though none can be proven."

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