Sunday, February 27, 2005

Inveterate Enderlin

At the close of “Controversy? No Controversy...”, my last post on the Al-Dura/France2 affair, I asked readers who follow the French media to post comments or send me e-mail regarding uptake of the affair in the major French media that I may have missed. As I noted in the post, and contrary to the impression created by the recent NYTimes article on the affair and by some English-language blogs, the latest revelations in the Al-Dura/France2 affair have not in fact provoked substantial controversy in France. In the major French media, there seems rather to be a sort of conspiracy of silence on the matter. No further examples of French coverage of the affair were brought to my attention. The French site acmedias monitors the media coverage of the affair and it too notes no further examples of coverage in the major French media since the publication of the January 25 op-ed piece by Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte in Le Figaro. (Among French publications, only the specialized magazine, Jeune Afrique L’intelligent, appears to have devoted an article to it.)

However, as Gudrun Eussner has brought to my attention, Charles Enderlin, the France2 reporter who filed the original Al-Dura report on September 30, 2000, did participate in an internet forum hosted by the website of the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur in the second week of February. Not surprisingly, several of the visitors to the forum posed questions related to the affair. The most astonishing response was surely that provoked by the following question concerning the unedited rushes of the alleged Al-Dura shooting:

Mister Enderlin : leave aside for the moment...everything that has been said during the 4 years since you sent France2 your story on Netzarim.... Can you tell us exactly what you believe is supported by the images you had in your possession at the time?
In fact, as readers will be able to appreciate from the following, Charles Enderlin either misunderstood the question or willfully chose to misinterpret it. Here, in any case, is his response:

I think I would make the same commentary and edit the sequence the same way. With perhaps one difference. Knowing how much I’m criticized for it now, I would broadcast the few seconds of the child's death throes [agonie] that I cut thinking at the time that it made the report too painful.

During the past four years, Charles Enderlin has repeatedly claimed that he cut the scene of the child’s death throes from his report for the reason stated. Note, however, that he says this now in spite of the fact that three of his peers who have in the meanwhile seen the unedited rushes confirm that they do not contain any scene of the child’s death throes, as indeed, despite its other deficiencies, does the recent NYTimes report.

(Note: For German readers, Gudrun Eussner has a detailed discussion here of the Al-Dura/France2 affair, including its ramifications in the German media. Gudrun begins her treatment by citing the American PR specialist James Harff to the effect that “What counts is just what is said first. Subsequent denials are completely ineffective.” The quote, incidentally, comes from Jacques Merlino’s Les vérités Yougoslaves ne sont pas toutes bonnes à dire, a remarkable study of media manipulations at the outset of the Balkan wars of the last decade. Much can be learned from Merlino’s book also for understanding the major media’s performance in covering the current Middle East conflict. At the time it was published, in 1993, Jacques Merlino was a reporter for none other than France 2. Despite the fact that the book was a major success in France – or perhaps because of this – he would subsequently disappear from the airwaves.)