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France12 July 2002

Racism suit against two journalists dismissed

Reporters Without Borders is pleased at the dismissal by a Paris court on 12 July of a racism suit against French radio journalist Daniel Mermet and his boss, Jean-Marie Cavada, head of the Radio France network.

The judge said the allegations of "incitement to racial hatred" and "racial slander" against Mermet, and by extension Cavada, were unfounded because an account of a conflict situation "inevitably includes the voicing of preferences." He said there was no question of Mermet being anti-semitic.

Mermet had been sued by the French Union of Jewish Students, the French League against Racism and Anti-Semitism and lawyer William Goldnadel for broadcasting remarks from listeners in the course of a series of reports from Gaza and Israel. They have appealed against the judge’s verdict.

Reporters Without Borders had supported Mermet and called for the dropping of all legal action against him. More than 25,000 people signed an appeal backing him entitled "Do we have the right to criticise Sharon?" which was published in the French weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur on 19 June by Reporters Without Borders and Mermet’s radio programme "Là-bas si j’y suis" ("Life on the Other Side").

The appeal criticised the defamatory campaign and threats made against journalists and media in recent months by people accusing them of being biased in their reporting of the Middle East conflict.

"Small groups and individuals daring to claim they speak for all Jews are playing on fear and confusion and when the slightest criticism of Israeli policy is made come out with the charge of anti-Semitism," the appeal said.

"This dangerously devalues the fight against anti-Semitism and Jew-hating by systematically and improperly brandishing it on every occasion. (...) If Mermet’s programme was anti-Semitic, then anti-Semitism is everywhere. (...) We reject these lunatic accusations and exaggerated suspicions, this serious perversion of public debate and this cheapening of anti-Semitism," the appeal said.

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