AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Tuesday 10 July 2012
Last Update 10 July 2012 4:42 pm
PARIS: French television channel TF1 defended yesterday a decision to air recordings of gunman Mohamed Merah negotiating with police that sparked fury among his victims' families and prompted an official probe.
The audio extracts of Merah, who killed seven people in March including three Jewish children, contained "very important information" that warranted broadcast, TF1's news director Catherine Nayl told AFP.
The extracts, broadcast Sunday, revealed how police negotiated with the gunman during a 32-hour siege at an apartment in Toulouse, southwest France, where they had cornered him after his killings, she
"We did this with a perfect awareness of its news value," she said. "I think this document proves that, right up to the end of the raid, the negotiators were trying to detain Mohamed Merah and to detain him alive."
She said the recordings also showed that Merah "in cold blood and with absolute determination ... had created a character for himself."
"All this information, which is new information in the Merah case, seemed important to us to broadcast," she said. "We are journalists, our job is to inform."
In the extracts, run on TF1's early evening news program, the 23-year-old Al-Qaeda-inspired gunman could be heard defying the police and declaring he was not afraid to die.
Merah was eventually killed in a shootout as a crack police unit tried to storm his apartment.
"I know that there's a chance you could kill me, that's a risk I'm taking," he said. "So there we are — know that you are up against a man who is not afraid of death."
Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned the decision to run the extracts, and lawyers for relatives of the victims said the families were "outraged" by the move and would file complaints.
Jean Tamalet, a lawyer for the brother of a soldier killed by Merah, said "one can only wonder" about the source of the leaked recordings when police and security services were the only ones known to have them.
The interior ministry said a criminal investigation had been opened into the leak of the tapes and the broadcast.
The head of France's CSA broadcasting authority, Michel Boyon, said he was "profoundly shocked" by the airing of the recordings and that the agency "would not hesitate" to impose penalties on broadcasters.
"It is not acceptable to mock the families' suffering in this way," he said.
Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, shocked France when he killed three soldiers and four Jewish people between March 11 and 19.
The case highlighted shortcomings in France's counter-terrorism operations, with authorities criticized for not taking Merah as a serious threat.
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