Al Jazeera Says Ethics Code Prevents its Airing of Video of French Shootings

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(Credit: Al Jazeera, screenshot)

Broadcaster Al Jazeera announced March 27 it won’t “broadcast video footage of three deadly shootings in southern France filmed by an al Qaeda-inspired gunman using a camera strapped to his body,” Reuters reported.

According to Al Jazeera’s statement on the matter, the network decided against airing the video because doing so would conflict with its ethics code.  (See here Al Jazeera’s ethics code.)  The statement reads:

“In accordance with Al Jazeera’s Code of Ethics, given the video does not add any information that is not already in the public domain, its news channels will not be broadcasting any of its contents.”

See Al Jazeera’s full report on the video and its decision not to air it here.

According to the statement, the tape “shows the attacks in chronological order, with audible gunshots and voices of the killer and the victims” but not “the face of the confessed murderer, Mohammed Merah.”  Merah “filmed all of his attacks,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported that “prosecutors” said.

According to Reuters, Al Jazeera got the video from an anonymous tipster, and the network has given the video, to the police, but won’t be giving it to other media outlets.

According to the Washington Post, the video is 25 minutes long.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy had asked media outlets not to broadcast the videos “under any pretext out of respect for the victims and for France,” Reuters reported.

The New York Times reported that Al Jazeera’s Paris bureau chief Zied Tarrouche said the police “confirmed” the footage is real. According to Al Jazeera’s statement on the video, Al Jazeera’s Tarrouche noted “the video had clearly been manipulated after the fact, with religious songs and recitations of Quranic verses laid over the footage.”

We wrote earlier this week about a fake photo on social media sites and blogs that purports to show Fox News making several errors in a report on the gunman.  Errors included misspelling Toulouse, France, calling the gunman a “Crazy Buddhist Madman,” and misnaming the president of France.  The photo was a fake though. See our story on that fake photo here.

The Washington Post noted that Al Jazeera has been previously criticized for airing videos of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban following Sept. 11, 2001 and videos of “American POWs and battle casualties.”

We have addressed the issue of publication of graphic photos numerous times. In December, iMediaEthics highlighted the U.S. photojournalism double standard in broadcasting graphic photos of foreign deaths.  Specifically, we focused on the media reporting of the 2007 murder of Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

We’ve also reported on the graphic photos of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as he was dying and after his death.

We have written to Al Jazeera for further comment and will update with any response.

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Al Jazeera Says Ethics Code Prevents its Airing of Video of French Shootings

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