Thursday, September 14, 2006

Al Durah - Bloggers on trial

In early October, 2000, France2 released some footage of events in Gaza that had been filmed and sent them by a Palestinian cameraman in their employ. The footage, which had been edited by France2's Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, showed a Palestinian father, Jamal al Durah, and his young son, Muhammed, sheltering against a wall. It showed dust ballooning from the wall, the boy crumpling and curling into his father's arms, and dying. The Israelis had shot down an innocent child, one obviously unarmed and no threat to them or anybody else. World opinion expressed its outrage. Muhammed al Durah became a symbol of Israeli oppression, an icon of Palestinian and Islamic resistence that even rated a mention in the speeches of Mr bin Laden. The death of Muhammed al Durah at the hands of Israeli soldiers was a turning point in the Intifada, reinforced Yasser Arafat and was played and re-played on Al-Jazeera, on French television and all round the world. But did it happen?

There is some doubt. This video (almost 14 minutes long) gives a summary.

This six-year-old story is once again actuelle. As from the 14th of September, 2006, there will be a series of three trials of individual French citizens who used internet sites to publish criticism of France2’s coverage of the Muhammad al Durah affair. They will be charged under a 1881 law on press freedom that legislates against words that sully “the honor and consideration (reputation) of the individual or institution in question”. In this case, France2 and Charles Enderlin.

Richard Landes of Augean Stables will be covering the trials. He and others have a site entirely dedicated to the al Durah affair at Second Draft. There you can see a detailed and documented history of the iconic 59 seconds of news dynamite.

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