Broadcaster drops production company over gun-planting episode

Broadcaster drops production company over gun-planting episode

Kan decries ‘contemptible’ behavior by crew in filming of police docudrama, says it has ‘zero tolerance’ for incrimination of innocent people

The logo for Kan docudrama TV series 'Jerusalem District.' (Screenshot: YouTube)
The logo for Kan docudrama TV series 'Jerusalem District.' (Screenshot: YouTube)

Israel’s Kan public broadcaster on Thursday said it would no longer work with the Koda production company after facing pressure over a gun that was planted in an East Jerusalem man’s home during the filming of a police docudrama.

During the production of an episode of “Jerusalem District,” police put a rifle in the home of Samer Sleiman, a resident of the neighborhood of Issawiya, making it appear as though they found the weapon there.

After the November 2018 incident was revealed Tuesday by the Haaretz daily, police issued an apology and Kan removed the show from its online platform. Sleiman, who said he was recognized by neighbors despite his face being blurred, filed a formal police complaint Wednesday.

According to Haaretz, police officials claimed that the idea of planting a weapon was raised by a member of the show’s production crew after officers failed to find a weapon when they searched the house. This suggestion was then approved by the senior policeman present.

In an angry statement, the broadcaster on Thursday accused production staff of misleading the public and incriminating innocent people.

“Everything that happened in this affair contradicts the essence of the public broadcaster and its basic values,” Kan said, describing the move as “contemptible.”

“It is a betrayal of the public trust and the trust in the Israeli public broadcaster,” Kan said. “There is no room and zero tolerance in the corporation for lies to the public and incriminating innocent people.”

As of Wednesday evening, all of the episodes of “Jerusalem District” were no longer available on Kan’s website or YouTube channel. Reruns of the show will no longer be aired on Kan and the series will no longer be accessible on demand.

“Since the initial complaint against [the production company] Koda and the police, Kan has opened a thorough inquiry with the production company and will examine the operating methods and editing of the series,” Kan said in a statement on Wednesday, as the episodes were pulled.

Kan said it viewed the incident “gravely” and that it ran against the ethics agreement it had signed with Koda.

The decision to take down the episodes came as Koda said it was looking into three more of the series’ 145 scenes in which the uncovering of evidence appeared to have been staged.

However, in a letter to Kan quoted by Hebrew media, Koda insisted beside the two directors of the episode who were on hand for the filming, no one at the company was aware the gun had been planted. It said one of the directors no longer works at the company and the other will be summoned for a hearing when he returns from a trip overseas.

Samer Sleiman, a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, arrives at the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department in Jerusalem on August 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Koda also said that the directors thought a disclosure at the end of the program saying some scenes were dramatized had insured them from being found at fault over the way they were done, “especially in light of the extensive blurring of the house and its occupants.”

On Wednesday, Sleiman said he received a threatening call from a man he understood to be a police officer warning him not to speak to the media about the incident.

Police apologized Tuesday “for any harm caused to the civilian as a result of the segment’s airing” and added that the case is being probed and that conclusions would be drawn as necessary.

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