TV censors hostage pictures

FRENCH MEDIA
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The Independent Online
FROM MARY DEJEVSKY

in Paris

French television channels yesterday began blocking out the faces of all UN personnel held hostage when they showed news footage from Bosnia so as not to be accused of helping the Bosnian Serbs' propaganda effort.

They were strongly encouraged to do so by the independent broadcasting commission on two grounds: to preserve the privacy and dignity of the French hostages and to prevent manipulation by any of the warring parties.

The decision followed criticism of French television coverage of the crisis from several quarters. Some were concerned that families of French soldiers serving with the UN would be even more worried if they saw their relatives among the hostages. Others suggested that the TF1 channel had ''censored'' coverage by leaving it almost 24 hours before showing clips of French UN soldiers raising the white flag after surrendering their observation post to Bosnian Serbs.

The fiercest criticism, however, came from Ministry of Defence officials who objected to the showing of the white flag episode at all. The whole affair, one was quoted as saying, was pure Bosnian Serb propaganda ''staged with the sole aim of showing humiliating images of our men''. He said the ministry would not tolerate French television ''playing that game'' and would be making a complaint to the independent broadcasting commission.

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