Unacceptable pressure on France Televisions

The French collective Informing Is Not a Crime (INPD) supports the journalists Yvan Martinet, Olivier Gardette and Mélanie Laporte, authors of « Gaza : a crippled youth », a 29-minute story aired Thursday, October 11th on « Envoyé Spécial » (« Special Correspondent ») on France 2. Our colleagues as well as the management of this public network’s feature television program were unfairly blamed by several Israeli and French institutions and organizations that were unscrupulous in trying to stop this story from being broadcasted… without even watching it beforehand. It is indeed upon merely seeing the trailer of this program that this grave accusation occurred on October 10th :

  • in the middle of the afternoon, the Ambassador of Israel to France, Aliza Bin-Noun, tweeted the letter she had written to the president of France Televisions, Delphine Ernotte, earlier in the day. The Ambassador was asking for the pure and simple cancellation of a story she had therefore not seen. She pointed out in particular : « it [the story] not only presents an unbalanced point of view regarding the situation in Gaza but also highlights Israel in a very negative way.»

  • the same day, the Israelite Central Consistory of France found relevant to condemn, in its own letter to France Televisions’ management, « the existing tie between the resurgence of antisemitism in France and the hatred of Israel fueled by such programs » while the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) expressed in a press release their worry of this story’s consequences which « in light of its trailer (…) has an anti-Israeli bias .»

This is a non-exhaustive list. In the face of this shocking pressure upon freedom of information, the INPD collective endorses France 2’s Journalists Society’s press release :

« By accusing our colleagues at first glance and without grounds of taking on an ‘unbalanced point of view’, of presenting a ‘very negative’ view of Israel, of ‘encouraging the hatred of Israel’ and of ‘fueling antisemitism’ without even having watched the aforementioned story, these institutions engage in an unacceptable trial by public opinion and in an attempt to influence the editorial choices of a public network. Well-founded and argument-based criticisms after a story has been aired and watched deserve to be heard of course, but the Journalists Society cannot accept that the professionalism and ethics of the journalists it represents would be questioned in this manner, at first glance, in a defamatory and unjustified way .»

Furthermore, INPD vigorously opposes the French Congressman for French expatriates Meyer Habib’s remarks, who accused France 2 of an act of « propaganda » and of « preparing the ground for antisemitic violence to come, if not an attack against French Jews. » These words are as clear as they are unbearable.

Has all this pressure, conflation and accusations given a green light to extremists to unleash their hatred ? After the story was aired many insulting posts unfolded on social networks against the journalists and the show host, who sometimes received e-mail threats such as this : « [I] will come with pitts [i.e. pittbulls]. Bitch, I’m going to spank you. »

In this injurious atmosphere, the INPD collective wonders : how does the government of a great democracy such as Israel allow itself, through the voice of its Ambassador, to try to censor a public television network of another democratic State ? Why didn’t the French government, a protector of the freedom of the press, react to these verbal attacks ? Why didn’t the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs call to order the Israeli Ambassador ? INPD considers that the French government must protest this interventionism. Remaining silent implies an undefendable approval by default.

This silence is all the more hazardous that this kind of intervention will be repeated, based on the statement from the spokesperson for the Embassy of Israel, Mr. Mercer-Woods, to the French daily Le Monde. According to him, this kind of request will be used in the future in the event that contents « posing the same issues » as this story are broadcasted.

The INPD collective therefore asks French authorities to react to the foreshadowed systematization of this kind of broadcasting cancellation request.

How can certain well-known and respected Jewish institutions in France suggest that a journalistic production perfectly meeting this profession’s ethics favors antisemitism and is possibly an accomplice of terrorism ? These innuendos are unacceptable and irresponsible.

Let us point out that « Envoyé Spécial » is a feature TV program that has existed for nearly 30 years and has investigated since its beginnings all types of news stories all over the world. This program has, for instance, reported multiple times about antisemitism, the hatred of Jews and of the State of Israel as well as all forms of racism and xenophobia. Regarding Israel and Palestinian territories, the editorial team has never given up to the slightest indulgence towards Hamas or any other secular or religious organization.

Let us not forget, also, that the very nature of journalism is to be a counter power that must be practiced everywhere, starting with combat areas where armies act. As Haaretz‘ famous Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who lived several years in the Gaza strip to cover the news there, so well put it : a journalist’s role is to « monitor the centers of power. » However unpleasant that may be.

« Informing Is Not a Crime », in French « Informer n’est pas un délit » (INPD) gathers numerous print, radio, TV and internet journalists. Its mission is to carry out civic struggles to defend freedom to inform.