French TV 'disowns' journalist for asking about Israeli army's siege on Al-Shifa hospital
A wave of support is building in France and North Africa for French Algerian journalist Mohamed Kaci after his channel disowned him for questioning the Israeli army’s spokesperson about the siege on Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.
TV5Monde said on Monday it “regretted” how journalist Kaci interviewed Olivier Rafowicz, a spokesperson for the Israeli army, on November 15.
“At the end of the interview conducted by the presenter of this edition, Mohamed Kaci, the journalistic rules, applicable to any interview, were not respected,” reads the press release published by the Paris-based channel jointly owned by public broadcasting companies from France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada.
The interview with Rafowicz took a tense turn when journalist Kaci started asking questions about the siege and raid on the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.
“Are you going to take into account, from now on, the humanitarian emergency in the Palestinian enclave?” Kaci asked.
The Israeli army’s spokesperson responded angrily: “Do you take the State of Israel to be a State that does not know the rules of democracy and international law? We are an army of a democratic state facing the most horrible fundamentalist Islamist fascism."
The siege of al-Shifa Hospital has sparked an international outcry, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) describing it as a “death zone” when its team visited the facility last week.
More than 7,000 people, including patients in critical condition and premature babies fighting for their lives, were sheltered inside the hospital before those who were able to move were forced out.
The French journalist asked the Israeli spokesperson if “entering a hospital, in your opinion, corresponds to respect for the rules of international law, in particular humanitarian law?”
Rafowicz responded with the oft-repeated Israeli claim that Hamas was using the hospital as a military base - an allegation that the Israeli army has so far failed to prove.
“You know Hamas, you have seen what they have done. They massacred children, and disembowelled women … Do you believe they behave according to international law?” added the army’s spokesperson.
However, the TV5Monde journalist doubled down, asking: “So you are behaving like Hamas, is that what you are telling me this evening? "
“There, you are now behaving not like a journalist but like someone who has a political position,” responded Olivier Rafowicz.
The journalist then ended the interview after Rafowicz refused to continue the discussion if Kaci did not retract his comparison between Hamas and the Israeli army.
In their press release, the French channel claimed that this comparison did not respect journalistic rules as it “led to the impression that the methods of intervention of the Israeli army were equivalent to the strategy of Hamas, an organisation considered terrorist by many States... which the TV5MONDE news department deeply regrets”.
'Disowned for doing his job'
France's National Union of Journalists (SNJ) released a statement on Tuesday voicing support for journalist Kaci and condemning the French channel’s statement, saying it had made Kaci a target of several hate posts on social media.
“The SNJ is surprised by this press release which resembles a disavowal, and does not fully understand who it is intended for and who it must reassure,” added the SNJ press release.
The move was also criticised by French news website L'humanité, which published an article titled: "Mohamed Kaci, the TV5Monde journalist disowned by his channel for doing his job." The article argued that Kaci had "simply done his job by properly questioning Olivier Rafowicz, spokesperson for the Israeli occupation army."
Esprit critique, véracité, exactitude : notre confrère Mohamed Kaci n'a fait que son travail. La section @SNJ_national de @TV5MONDE dénonce le désaveu de la direction et appelle à la retenue et l'apaisement suite aux attaques qu'il a subies sur les réseaux sociaux— SNJ - premier syndicat de journalistes (@SNJ_national) November 21, 2023
COMMUNIQUÉ ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/pLRLmLST2l
Jean-Guy Greilsamer, a French Jewish activist and member of the French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP) and the BDS France movement argued that for TV5Monde, "the journalistic rules must never contradict Israeli propaganda,” he wrote in a post on X platform adding: “Support for Mohamed Kaci!”
The Reporters Without Borders’ representative in North Africa, Khaled Drareni, has also joined the wave of support for Kaci that spread around France and North Africa.
Kaci continues to host his programme but has yet to speak publicly about the controversy.