(Esther Schapira is a German journalist who works for German public TV. She has produced two documentaries on the al-Dura fraud. At the special request of Philippe Karsenty, she testified at his appellate trial against Charles Enderlin and France 2 on January 16th, 2013.)
Why I Won’t Sue You
Before this story brought us together, your name didn’t mean anything to me — like to the rest of the world outside France — and if I could have chosen, it would have stayed like that. After we first met in 2001 I just thought of you as a man with bad behavior, an old bully. Back then I had contacted you because we were filming a documentary on Mohammed Al-Dura, which aired in 2002. I thought I would get support from you as a colleague working for a company which is closely linked to ARD, our television network in Germany. Instead, you threatened to sue me should I dare to accuse you or your company of having lied or fabricated anything. This came as a real surprise to me, because I hadn’t said anything like this, and I had no suspicions up until that moment.
This was more than 10 years ago, and we both have grown older, as I could see when we met again in a courtroom in Paris. You as the plaintiff, I as a witness. It was our fourth encounter, and each time it got worse. The older you get, it seems, the more stubborn you are. It was always unpleasant, so I preferred to avoid any contact. Quite frankly, this is one of the reasons why I decided not to sue you after you published your lies about me in your book, Un Enfant est mort, and this is also why I didn’t even write to you before. I simply didn’t want to waste my time with you, and I didn’t want any contact. However, I could not avoid meeting you again because of that stupid trial of yours against Philippe Karsenty, meant to silence all the critics.
It may sound silly to you, but as a journalist I feel personally insulted by your behavior because it is a disgrace for our profession. As journalists we have the duty to find out the truth and tell it. We are not part of any campaign. We are eyewitnesses and we tell our audience what we have seen, what we heard, and what we found out. We ask critical questions and we insist on getting answers. We act according to our best belief — or at least we should. And when we get criticised, when people question our work, when they have doubts and even when they attack us in an unfair way, we have to deal with that by giving more and better and more convincing answers, by presenting more facts. And if we don’t take them seriously because their reaction seems to us to be completely unjustified, we just raise an eyebrow and let them do what they think they must do because this is the freedom of expression, freedom of speech, the essence of democracy.
This is what I did when I read what you wrote about me in your book: let him talk, let him write. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t work in the kitchen. But of course there is also criticism that can’t be ignored, that needs to be dealt with, because it presents new aspects and questions we might have overlooked. After all, we can’t be sure that we don’t make mistakes. It may happen that we tell lies because we believe them; this is not a problem as long as we are honest enough to admit mistakes and to correct them.
Unfortunately, this seems to be a major problem for many journalists. For you it is obviously impossible.