Al Dura Libel Judgement Overturned

Reuters reports:

PARIS, May 21 (Reuters) – A French appeals court on Wednesday overturned a libel verdict won by France 2 television over a report about the killing of a Palestinian boy in 2000.

The Paris court ruled in favour of media critic Philippe Karsenty, who called into question the veracity of the report, but it also said that it did not rule out that journalists at France 2 had acted professionally.

Karsenty, head of an online media commentary site, had appealed a 2006 decision which found libellous his statement that the station’s Israel correspondent had orchestrated images which later became a symbol for Palestinian militants.

In February, Karsenty presented judges with new evidence including a ballistics report and footage from other sources, which he said proved 12-year-old Mohammed al-Durra’s death had been staged.

The court said in its ruling the new footage “did not allow to rule out the opinion of (France 2) professionals,” but it also rejected claims by state prosecutor Antoine Bartoli that the new evidence was “neither complete nor serious.”

The France 2 report accused Israeli troops of shooting the boy and his father as they took cover during a skirmish between Israeli and Palestinian forces in the early days of the uprising that became known as the Second Intifada.

In February, the court saw footage of a terrified father and son crouching along a wall as bullets strike around them. The tape was filmed in the Gaza Strip during violence that followed the collapse of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians.

The images were shown around the world and the boy was widely seen as a martyr in Arab countries. The Israeli army initially apologised but later said its own investigation proved Palestinian, not Israeli fire, had killed Mohammed.

After receiving the ruling, Karsenty called it a victory for civil society and said he would continue to fight French media outlets which he said misreported the story.

The French public sector station has stood behind the correspondent and cameraman who made the report on Sept. 30, 2000.

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