No Shield on BBC Footage of Militant Palestinians
MANHATTAN (CN) - Survivors of suicide bombings and the families of those slain can access BBC outtakes from the documentary "Arafat Investigated," a federal judge ruled.
Dozens of U.S. citizen and Israeli plaintiffs are seeking damages under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991 against the Palestinian groups that they believe sponsored bombings and shootings that killed 33 people and maimed hundreds.
The plaintiffs, led by Mark Sokolow, think there may be support for their case in footage from the BBC documentary, "Arafat Investigated," which included interviews with Abu Rumaileh, the leader of Fatah in the West Bank city of Jenin, and Zakaria Zubaidi, an alleged Al-Aksa Brigades terrorist leader in Jenin.
"According to the plaintiffs, the outtakes of the interview footage are relevant to the issue of whether Fatah and Al-Aqsa are one in the same entity," U.S. District Judge Ronald Ellis explained. "If Fatah, which is part of the PLO, is connected to Al-Aqsa's activities, then the plaintiffs can obtain relief from the defendants."
But the news outlet "strenuously" objected to the subpoena as an attack on journalistic privilege that "would disrupt BBC's newsgathering activities and compromise its independent editorial judgment," according to the court.
Though Ellis said he doubts the footage contains a "smoking gun," he refused to quash the subpoena because the footage does not qualify as confidential.
"The outtakes are of 'likely relevance' because the footage in question may contain information that links Fatah to Al-Aqsa," the order states. "Although the court is skeptical of a 'smoking gun' presenting itself in these outtakes, the standard for relevance to overcome the journalist privilege for non-confidential materials is low, and the outtakes meet this lower standard of 'likely relevance' to a significant issue in the case."
BBC must produce the footage and an affidavit confirming its authenticity by Sept. 17.
The news organization did not return a request for comment.