No First Amendment Here: French Court Finds Me Guilty in Al-Dura Affair
The court agreed that I met a few people who had seen France 2 raw footages before I published my article, but they remembered -- once correctly -- that when some of these people witnessed at the court in Paris upon my request, they refused to declare that the report was a hoax. When heard by the court in September 2006, Richard Landes only agreed to declare that “the images which were broadcast were doubtful,” and added that he “was not certain of anything but that there were some mistakes which fed the controversy.”
So what does the future hold?
The verdict, which follows many others on al-Dura which were politically motivated, doesn’t leave me optimistic about the French judicial system. The investigation to discover the truth of the al-Dura report is now over: we have enough pieces of evidence to determine it to be a hoax. But these trials have shown that French defamation laws prevent freedom of speech. A French citizen cannot criticize freely -- without any risk of legal hassles -- a media outlet which broadcast false information. This reality allows powerful media outlets to judicially harass those who dare to alert on their misconducts.
Considering that, this fight to establish the truth might need to be taken up in places other than the French courts, and maybe in other countries.
As the French courts reject any competence to determine the authenticity of the al-Dura news report, it seems that only an independent, free, and transparent investigation committee will be able to decide if al-Dura was a hoax or not. France 2 and Charles Enderlin agreed to participate in this future commission.
(Those of you who would like to read a copy of the verdict: email me at [email protected].)