Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Netanyahu deletes tweet featuring photo of James Foley

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Read more

FOCUS

Lifting the veil over China's air pollution

Read more

ENCORE!

Tango Takeover in Paris

Read more

WEB NEWS

Calls for ISIS media blackout after execution of James Foley

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Steely resolve of reporters exploited by pared-down employers'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US judge calls Argentina bond swap offer illegal

Read more

  • French teenage girls held over Syria jihad plans

    Read more

  • Good borders make good neighbours, Merkel tells Ukraine

    Read more

  • Iceland issues aviation alert on volcano activity

    Read more

  • France will not be 'be pushed around' by Germany

    Read more

  • Libya withdraws as Africa Cup of Nations host

    Read more

  • ‘European GPS’ satellites launched into wrong orbit

    Read more

  • Suicide bomber targets Iraq intelligence HQ in deadly attack

    Read more

  • Video: Israel bombs kidnapping suspect’s home

    Read more

  • US brands journalist’s beheading a ‘terrorist attack’

    Read more

  • Ebola prompts Philippines to recall UN troops in Liberia

    Read more

  • Besieged by problems, Hollande faces unhappy return from summer holidays

    Read more

  • US sued over ‘deportation mill’ in New Mexico

    Read more

  • Colombian army and FARC rebels in face-to-face talks

    Read more

  • US National Guard starts to pull out of embattled Ferguson

    Read more

  • PSG fall flat once more against Evian

    Read more

  • US job market yet to recover from recession, says Fed Chair

    Read more

  • August 22, 1914: The bloodiest day in French military history

    Read more

  • Fear of Ebola sky-high among Air France workers

    Read more

Europe

Twenty years later, Timisoara affair exposes media credulity

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2009-12-22

As Romania celebrates the 20th anniversary of the toppling of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, misreporting of events in Timisoara by French media is also not likely to be forgotten.

In France, violent events leading up to Ceausescu’s execution captivated viewers but would go down in history for its hasty and misreported media coverage.

As explains French media historian Christian Delporte, the media rushed to cover Romania’s violent uprising, which they deemed much more fitting of a revolution than the relatively peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall.

Chasing the news

It all began in Romania’s second largest city, Timisoara, near the border with Hungary. On Dec. 17, 1989, a bloody crackdown on a protest against the eviction of dissident ethnic-Hungarian priest Laszlo Tokes left dozens dead, prompting further mass unrest across the country.

French private and public news networks, in fierce competition, broadcasted raw footage streaming in from the Romanian television.

Western media mainly depended on Romanian networks for information, explains Delporte.  “French journalists often found themselves watching live reports at the same time as viewers, losing their journalist’s role of choosing what to broadcast,” he says.

On Dec. 22, grim footage of 19 corpses - allegedly victims of the police crackdown in Timisoara - flashed on small screens across France. Yugoslavian and Hungarian news agencies were quoting a death toll of 4,630, a figure picked up by the usually reputable French news agency AFP.

Errors of judgement

Most French media didn’t bother to investigate the figures or check facts. One month later, it turned out that the corpses were of people who died before the protest even took place. The official death toll of the Romanian revolution in Timisoara eventually came down to 93. Twenty years on, the Timisoara hoax remains an example of journalists failing to check the accuracy of the news they broadcast.

“Media should be immune to a large-scale manipulation such as Timisoara. However, fierce competition and imitation in the media industry can always lead to mistakes,” says Delporte.

 

Date created : 2009-12-20

COMMENT(S)