Sunday, June 30, 2013
French whistleblower throttled
Journalist sanctioned for revealing judges indulging in disorderly conduct.
PARIS. The French media usually have a soft spot for whistleblowers, people who reveal matters that the public is not supposed know about. Among recently celebrated leakers are the American soldier Bradley Manning who passed secret military information to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and now Edward Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong after leaking information on American surveillance.
Not included in this celebrated group is French television journalist Clément Weill-Raynal, who works for the television station France 3. When on assignment to the offices of the Syndicat de la Magistrature, a left-leaning union of judges, a couple of weeks ago, he noticed that the judges had posted pictures of people they disliked on a huge bulletin board – labeled the Mur des cons, the Wall of Scumbags – complete with hostile graffiti against said scumbags.
The female president of the union indicated that the journalists must not film the bulletin board. Weill-Raynal nevertheless filmed the wall with his cell phone.
Days later and by a circuitous route the news of the Wall of Scumbags broke on the Atlantico website and from there it splashed all over the mainstream media. The result was indignation – not at the fact that judges kept a list of enemies, but against Weill-Raynal, who had “illegally” filmed the evidence.
Before the identity of the culprit was revealed, the left-leaning daily Libération had this to say: “it shows how news can be twisted for political purposes.” One of Weill-Raynal’s colleagues noted: “his right wing commitment is no secret.” Others remarked that he was controversial because he “’led the campaign against Charles Enderlin,’ accused of faking images in a report on the death of a Palestinian child in 2000.” Dispatch International wrote about this so-called al-Dura affair on January 31 and May 29.
In fact, it was Charles Enderlin who sued Weill-Raynal for an interview with Dr. Yehuda David, published under a pen name in the weekly Actualité Juive. Dr. David, a key witness in the al-Dura affair, is the surgeon who operated on Jamal al-Dura in order to restore the use of his right hand, disabled when Jamal was knifed by Palestinians in Gaza. Dr. David was acquitted, Weill-Raynal was convicted. That case is now in the highest French court, where for some reason the verdict was postponed.
The reversal of roles – it’s Enderlin who’s leading the charge against Weill-Raynal – is almost a minor detail compared to the ethical switch: the journalist who exposes disgraceful behavior in the heart of the judiciary is portrayed as a shady character with an agenda and Charles Enderlin, who cooperated in the production of a blood libel against Jews, is a victim of harassment.
The blatant display of hateful prejudice by magistrates sworn to render justice in the name of the French Republic was dismissed as a prank. Justice Minister Christiane Taubira scolded them on the floor of the National Assembly and the magistrates, like school kids caught with a pornographic magazine stuck in their geography book, tore down the wall.
Not so fast, says Weill-Raynal’s counsel, Maître Gilles William Goldnadel. That’s destruction of evidence.
Despite the justice minister’s reproach to the judges, Weill-Raynal’s detractors kept up their campaign against him, making incredible accusations of misconduct: first he stole the images from a private place (judges like metalworkers have the right to do graffiti in their union headquarters), then he denied being the one who shot the pics (journalists don’t protect their sources?), and gave them to Atlantico instead of France 3 (Weill-Raynal says his bosses didn’t think the story had legs) but especially and above all he is labeled right wing and with an agenda. What might that agenda be?
During a sermon at the Temple des Vosges in Paris, Rabbi Olivier Kaufman rendered tribute to Clément Weill-Raynal, who was an unfailing ally during the dark years of the “Al-Aqsa Intifada” that started in the late 1990s, when Jews were attacked in the streets of France, synagogues were torched, Jewish school busses were stoned, Jewish youths were slashed and stomped and Jews were murdered and mutilated.
Over 12,000 people have signed a petition in favor of Weill-Raynal, in the form of an open letter to the Minister of Culture Aurélie Filipetti reminding her of her commitment to make freedom to inform a priority. Neither the petition nor strong support from a small number of journalists, intellectuals, and distinguished personalities, however, could counter-balance the influence of the National Union of Journalists, which expressed its “most total support” for the magistrate’s union and demanded sanctions against Weill-Raynal. As a result of this hostile campaign, he was suspended for one week without pay and warned that if he misbehaves once more he’ll be dismissed.
Ironically, bills have recently been passed to protect journalists and whistleblowers. The recent development, however, shows how susceptible is French democracy to political pressure.
In an interview on June 12, Clément Weill-Raynal notes that 30 percent of the French judges belong to the Syndicat de la Magistrature, the union of judges. Most judges are, he believes, honest and conscientious but this minority turns courts into tribunaux de la pensée, tribunals on thought crime, rendering politicized justice.
Weill-Raynal also believes there is collusion between the Union of judges, the left media, the National Union of Journalists and the CGT, the national organization of trade unions. They work hand in hand and need each other.
According to Weill-Raynal, they don’t even try to hide their agenda. Thus the Union of Judges openly called for the voters to support Socialist Francois Hollande in the recent presidential elections.
A video showing “the wall of scumbags” can be seen here: