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France's TF1 aired leaked recordings of Mohamed Merah. (Credit: TF1, screenshot)

France’s TF1 defended airing “a leaked recording of conversations between police and Mohamed Merah” despite criticism from the lawyers of victims’ families and  France’s broadcast regulator, Editors Weblog reported.

Merah was killed earlier this year by police after he killed seven people.  The tapes are from “the 32-hour standoff between Merah and France’s elite Raid squad.”

The publication prompted Editors Weblog to ask “What constitutes ‘news value,’ and when can it justify giving airtime to a terrorist?”

The BBC reported that the French police are looking into TF1’s airing the conversations.

French broadcast regulator Conseil Superieur de L’Audiovisuel “reprimanded” TF1 for not giving “sufficient warning about their potentially shocking nature,” prior to publication, Reuters reported.   CSA’s president Michel Boyon is quoted as saying: “I was shocked by the decision to air (the recordings) when I thought of the victims’ families, of those who were injured or otherwise affected by these events.”

In a statement on the CSA’s website, the group reminded that channels must “take precautions when testimony relating to particularly tragic events are broadcast.”

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And, “lawyers representing relatives of Merah’s victims” want the court to keep the station from re-airing the tapes.  A lawyer for the families of the victims, Samia Maktouf, told the AFP that “The victims are outraged to learn the contents of these negotiations on television.  At this rate, the videos of the killings will end up on the Web and the damage then will be irreversible,”

According to the Associated Press, the tapes were aired on July 8. Canada’s CBC reported that TF1 has since taken down the tapes from its website.

TF1 has defended its publication.  The station’s Catherine Nayl explained it aired the tapes because it’s “new information,” “important to broadcast,” and with “informative value,” according to Editors Weblog. The AP added that TF1’s Harry Roselmack said,  “We expunged all references to the killings from the recordings, but we are aware of the shock that the families of victims could feel in hearing Mohamed Merah.” Further, TF1’s Sept a Huit program producer Emmanuel Chain is quoted by the BBC as arguing the channel “acted responsibly” in its reporting.

As we wrote in March, Al Jazeera said it had Merah’s footage of his shootings but decided not to air it because it “does not add any information that is not already in the public domain” and to abide by its ethics code.  An anonymous tipster turned the 25-minute video over to Al Jazeera which later gave it to the police.

We have written to CSA and TF1 for comment and will update with any response.

UPDATE: 7/17/2012 9:05 PM EST: Fixed datestamp.

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France’s TF1 Airs Leaked Tapes of Toulouse Shooter, Broadcast Group Says it’s ‘Shocked’

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