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23 Feb, 2023 17:08

Broadcaster sacks host after external influence probe

A journalist has reportedly been airing false information, supplied by the ‘Team Jorge’ Israeli contractor group
Broadcaster sacks host after external influence probe

French broadcaster BFMTV has fired an anchor following a probe into alleged external meddling into his work, AFP reported Thursday, citing an internal company email it had seen.

The host in question, Rachid M’Barki, was found not to have followed due editorial process in multiple news segments aired between 2021 and 2022, BFMTV Marc-Olivier Fogiel reportedly said in the correspondence. The faulty news segments included false information on assorted topics, ranging from Russian “oligarchs” to the situation in the Middle East and Western Sahara.

The anchor was suspended early in January, after the company became aware of the potential misconduct on his part. The affair became public this month, when the Forbidden Stories collective released an investigation into a secretive Israeli contractor group, dubbed ‘Team Jorge,’ which had specialized in assorted malign cyber activities to manipulate the outcomes of elections worldwide. To expose the group, the journalists fancied themselves as prospective clients seeking electoral meddling, while covertly recording hours of footage during meetings with the members of the clandestine contractor unit.

The group, run by Tal Hanan, a 50-year-old former Israeli secret services operative, operated a vast social media bots network it used to affect public opinion in different countries. The team also reportedly used legitimate news outlets to plant the information it needed for its activities, with M’Barki identified among presenters which had been fed the misinformation.

The presenter had previously acknowledged receiving information from shady anonymous sources, but denied a deliberate spread of fake news on his part. Speaking with Politico after the investigation came out, M’Barki acknowledged that he “used information… received from sources” and that “they did not necessarily follow the usual editorial process.”

“They were all real and verified. I do my job… I’m not ruling anything out, maybe I was tricked, I didn’t feel like I was or that I was participating in an operation of I don’t know what or I wouldn’t have done it,” the journalist stated.