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French Television Defends Airing of Merah Recordings

French television channel TF1 defends decision to air recordings of Toulouse terrorist, as his victims' families are outraged.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/10/2012, 5:45 AM

Otzar Hatorah school in Toulouse
Otzar Hatorah school in Toulouse
Flash 90

French television channel TF1 defended Monday a decision to air recordings of terrorist Mohamed Merah, who murdered seven people, including a rabbi and three young children, in the French city of Toulouse several months ago.

The airing of the recordings, in which Merah was heard negotiating with police, sparked fury among his victims' families and prompted an official probe.

The terrorist was heard telling cops, “I am a determined person. I didn’t do what I did to get caught.”

He also said that he had connections with Al-Qaeda and with the underworld and stated that he knows the methods used by the police.

“I know what's going to happen,” Merah declared. “I know how you operate, and I'm aware that you might kill me. It's a risk I’m taking. You should know that in front of you stands a man who is not afraid of death. I love death as you love life.”

TF1's news director Catherine Nayl told AFP on Monday that the audio extracts of Merah contained “very important information” that warranted broadcast.

“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.”

Nayl added 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.”

The report said that 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.  

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 was quoted as having told Europe 1 radio.  

The head of CRIF, the representative body of Jewish groups in France, told AFP that the victims' families were right to be furious at hearing the recordings.  

“I find the families' reactions justified. Hearing this killer swagger is unbearable for the families," Richard Prasquier said.

The 23-year-old terrorist had shot footage of himself carrying out seven murders in the week prior to the raid. Merah killed three Muslim paratroopers of North African heritage, in addition to the rabbi and children at the Otzar HaTorah Jewish day school in Toulouse.

He confessed to murdering the soldiers, the rabbi and the Jewish children while hiding in his apartment during the siege by SWAT police officers prior to his death.

Merah was ultimately killed when he tried to flee a raid on his apartment. His father has filed suit against police who killed him, accusing police of murdering his son.