Friday, May 13, 2011

CPJ Accusation #1 Against Italian Justice Officials : Was The Anon Blogger Pushed And Threatened?

Posted by Kermit


Overview. In our Second Open Letter to Joel Simon and world leaders we noted that NOT ONE of the accusations against Italian officials on close examination stands up. This is Attachment One to that letter. Click on the image above to see all the tests we carried out. More investigative posts are to come. 

CPJ Accusation #1: In CPJ’s Open Letter To The President of Italy Joel Simon writes about a Perugian blogger who uses the screen name “Frank Sfarzo” (real name Sforza, presumably CPJ didnt bother to check his real name). His claimed troubles started on October 28, 2008, the day Knox and Sollecito were indicted and a third defendant was convicted of murdering Kercher. Several members of Squadra Mobile, Sforza told CPJ, approached him just outside the city court (Corte di Assise di Perugia) and started to push and hit him. “You are pissing us off!” they told him, referring to his coverage.)

Opening observation: If Frank Sforza was in October 2008 on the cops’ radar we would be incredibly surprised. His blog had run for only a few months, it was low- volume and objective, it was in English, and it was pro Meredith and pro prosecutors and cops at this time. WHY would cops be “pissed off”??? Zero reason we can see, based simply on what appeared on his blog. Okay, let’s continue on to the supposed evidence of his claim. 

Line of Investigation for Test 1: In our first open letter to Joel Simon we already included the Perugian blogger’s own video of this alleged aggression. (His site is now temporarily taken down but we have the video.)

Since the alleged aggression occurred in the middle of a media scrum, I suggested in my prior letter that you study video sequences of other news organizations present to see if anyone had it in for the blogger (which is the essence of your accusation). 

Based only on that video, most viewers would seriously doubt – no, directly throw out – the accusation that CPJ makes. You do not see “several” policemen approach him and “push and hit him”.  However, you still don’t seem to have studied the video so here goes.

Test 1, Step 1: Google for video: 29 Oct 2008 “rudy guede” (enter)

This Google search made sense, since the aggression supposedly occurred when the Kercher family was exiting the courthouse in late October 2008 after Rudy Guede was sentenced for the murder of their daughter and sister Meredith. In October of 2008, the Perugian blogger had barely just switched sides from being pro-victim, to joining the pro-Amanda lobbying group. 

In the sake of honesty and transparency (something that seems to be lacking from some media organizations these days) I should say that I repeated this test twice. The first time I googled for videos dated “28 Oct 2008” (the date of Guede’s sentencing), however, since it occurred well into the evening, most of the news videos are dated the next day.

Approximate time required to obtain material to be analysed: less than 1 second.

Analysis:

There are a number of videos which result from the Google search. I latched onto one from The Guardian.

The sequence which is of interest in The Guardian’s video goes from the 00:55 second mark to 1:11. You’ll need eagle eyes for this, but look out!!! Just a fraction of a second before the video cuts to the Kercher family’s news conference, we too are witnesses to the Perugian blogger suffering his aggression … centimeters from Stephanie Kercher’s face!!! 

Now if the Italian cops were the ones doing the beating up, you’ll have to admit that’s pretty cheeky of them, in front of the murder victim sister’s nose, under the blaring light of dozens of television cameras.


[Above: If it’s true that Mignini is responsible for this aggression, all I can say is that his hit squad is made up of undetectable aces. Closer scrutiny shows that Stephanie Kercher seems to be putting her hand up to protect herself, not from Mignini’s goon squad, but from the crush of reporters, with the blogger right there in her face.]

Now I can imagine that there will be persons out there who will need to believe that what appears to be jostling and media scrum etiquette is actually a planned conspiracy by Mignini, his private Italian national police force goon squad, and a series of judges who are complices to the abuse.

So, let’s do a more detailed review of the abundant information at hand. In fact, before we look more closely at the Perugian blogger’s aggression, let’s just watch The Guardian video a couple of times in order to get a feeling for those 16 seconds of movement. This is very important to understand the event.

At the beginning of the sequence, you only see the door of the courthouse which the Kercher family has exited in the first second. There are four or five plainclothes policemen or guards who escort the family as they approach the media crowd. They plunge into the media, which moves along with them a little. However, at the core of the crowd, the Kercher family and their escorts progressively move past each photographer and cameraman.

This is, I imagine, the exact same process as any courtroom departure covered by the Press, yet it is an important consideration in this test: for as much as individual members of the media try to advance along with the Kerchers, the Kerchers and their escorts press forward and “overtake” each member of the media.

The only people who don’t change position in a relative manner to one another are the members of the press: the colleagues that each reporter or cameraman has at his elbows change very little their position amongst each other (even if the whole body of the Press is shuffling along as they try to follow the Kerchers).  One exception to that relativity we’ll see later, is the Perugian blogger.

Okay, now that we’ve seen The Guardian video a couple of times, we have a feeling for the setting and the non-stop movement of the Kerchers and their escorts.  Let’s look at the “aggression”. As we said, it occurs just at the end of this sequence, at 1:10 and 1:11, right before The Guardian’s video cuts to the Kerchers’ press conference (in the following frames from the video, I’ve removed the irrelevant left and lower parts of the frames in order to enlarge and concentrate on “the aggression”)


Above image: Between the 1:10 and 1:11 marks of The Guardian video, we see the Perugian blogger appear (that’s the last second of the courthouse exit sequence). It’s not too clear in this frame, but if you have seen the video, you can see clearly that he has a couple of fixed or video newsmedia cameras just behind and to the right of him.

In that first frame, there is not yet any evidence of violence, he is slightly crouched (as evidenced also by the angle of his own video images which we will look at in a minute). I believe that is Stephanie Kercher’s right hand that is outstretched – in this frame it appears that it could be a left hand, however that doubt is removed in the next frames:


Above image: “The Aggression” has occurred! We don’t see exactly what provokes the Perugian blogger’s reaction, but he raises his right hand to his head. His hand is empty, so this is quite likely just at the moment when in the blogger’s own digital camera (or cellphone) drops, or hangs and dangles. Clearly, he is not filming his short digital video.

One suspect in “The Aggression” is the escort to the right of Stephanie Kercher (indicated as Escort 1 in my marked up image). The escort’s unseen right hand, right arm or right shoulder quite likely makes physical contact with the Perugian blogger – while the CPJ may believe that this contact was executed under the devious instructions of Mr. Mignini, I find a much more plausible explanation in that this escort was simply making way for the Kerchers.

Now, those who are fans of gymnastics may believe that said escort somehow wrapped his right arm around the Perugian blogger’s head and tapped / slapped / hit him there on the right side, although it doesn’t make sense that a person on the left side of someone hits that someone on the right side of their head.

Quite likely the best explanation is that someone or something to the right and behind the Perugian blogger hit him. We see emerging in this frame a total of four photographers or cameramen.

It’s entirely possible that the Perugian blogger got in the way of one of those members of the media, and that either he backed into them and their equipment (hitting his head), or that the advancing group of the Kerchers and their escorts pushed the blogger into the photographers and cameramen and their equipment, or that a cameraman got irate with the blogger for buzzing about and getting in the way and slapped him on the head.


Above image: This is the marked up version of the first image we saw. It is just before The Guardian’s video cuts to the Kercher press conference. We see better the emerging cameras 3 and 4. What appears to be Stephanie Kercher’s right hand could actually now be touching the Perugian blogger (I hope that by trying to protect herself that the CPJ doesn’t call her an accessory to “The Aggression” and issue another accusatory Letter to the World!).

There’s a possibility that what I’m calling Stephanie Kercher’s right hand could be the right hand of her escort, although I think not, as it is at an unnatural angle for him. In addition, if you compare the size of her hand to the Perugian blogger’s hand, it seems more appropriate to assign it to her (it is true that women’s hands are smaller than men’s, and that relation is definitely what we see in this frame). 

We’re not finished yet with “The Aggression” at the courthouse. However, just on the basis of what we’ve seen, does it seem like Mr. Mignini has directed “several members of Squadra Mobile” to approach the Perugian blogger and start “to push and hit him”?

Please, please Mr. Simon, don’t tell me that the CPJ still doesn’t have it clear, that you’re still thinking about it, that you’re not yet ready to withdraw your accusation against Mr. Mignini on this one – for the moment I’m only talking about this first example you gave of Mignini’s aggressions which justify for you sending a letter to 21 World Leaders.

[Above: The three video frames analysed from The Guardian video, with no markup or overlays. Click on each image if you want to see a larger version]

I mentioned that last night the Perugian blogger’s website was removed by Google’s Blogger service. However, trust me in the data I provide below on his video. If you would like to see the rest of the video, or consult alternative frames, do contact me.
Just for the record, the video used to be available at this link Here’s his own version of “The Aggression” outside the courthouse:


[Above: Although the CPJ has started to call the Perugian blogger a “local freelance reporter”, the quality of his video makes one repeat the question if he is anything more than the blogspot blogger that he is (er, used to be), allied through collaborator Jim Lovering with the Friends of Amanda lobby.]

Given the low resolution and the non-stop jumping in the blogger’s 36 second video, I’ve only extracted a handful of frames, which I won’t enlarge any more, otherwise they become pixellated and unviewable.

At 01”, you can just barely see the courthouse door in the background. In the foreground you can see the backs and equipment of the members of the press who are filming the Kercher family. The Kerchers and their escorts are not yet defined, given the low quality of the video, however, the brightness of the camera lights and flash bulbs situates them in the medium distance. In other words, they are some distance still from the Perugian blogger.

At 05” and 07”, the mass formed by the Kerchers and their escorts moves forward, getting closer to the Perugian blogger, however, he is still separated from them, as seen by heads and media equipment that continues to appear between them and him.
In the whole video you can hear noise, people complaining, other people asking to please make way, there is a lot of commotion. At 09” when listening to the video you can hear a swear word in Italian.

At 11” and 12” there is still at least one line of members of the press between the Perugian blogger and the Kerchers / escorts as they advance inexorably through the media scrum. In 11” you see someone and a dark shape (television video camera?) on the left, in 12” you see hands of reporters with microphones in front of Stephanie Kercher’s escort.

At 13” and 14” this same escort (Escort 3 in my marked up Guardian video, on Stephanie Kercher’s left) gets hit on the head or seems to almost get hit on the head by a boom mike (I include a frame from The Guardian video of this moment). The boom mike is connected to a camera or some over equipment to the left of the blogger, and this gets in his way.

The core group of the Kerchers and their escorts continues forwards. From 14” to 25”, the Perugian blogger seems to squirrel around, looking for a better position. He is changing his relative positioning to the other cameramen and reporters near him.

The cameraman (I assume he’s a cameraman) with the boom mike to his left keeps getting in front of the blogger, and the blogger can’t get a good shot. Up until now, the blogger has been taking his video from on high (holding his digital camera / cellphone above his head, and filming the foreheads and the tops of the heads of the Kerchers and their escorts.

Then he gets an idea. He burrows low and moves left behind the cumbersome cameraman with the boom mike, abandoning his attempt to position himself in front of Escort 3.

In 27”, he pops out of the dark mass of cameramen’s backs, just below Escort 1’s chin, looking up now at Stephanie from further to her right (you see his video is now from below, looking up, instead of aiming his camera from above on the right as he had done before).

A budding freelance reporter’s dream scoop: Right in front of Stephanie! Eye to eye! (Well, better said, eye-to-her chin.)

His exclusive images didn’t last for long. About two seconds to be exact.

At 29” the Perugia blogger’s camera shows the night sky, the ground, and the crowd. Did the escort and Stephanie plow into him? Probably.

Did he also hit his head on one of the cameras / boom mikes / other media equipment he had ducked under (because he got plowed into, or because he backed into the members of the media) and that were slightly behind and above him? Maybe.

Did a member of the media whose images or sound the blogger had been messing up get mad and slap him? Maybe.

Did a policeman unseen on the videos hit him? I doubt it, but maybe.




[Above:  Television cameras, along with pitted olives, can be dangerous weapons, and provoke grievous international tensions, including hitting sportsmen on their heads with bulky cameras and their boom mikes. In a case of aggression like in Perugia, it’s almost better to set up Mignini as the fall guy, rather than a wealthy television broadcasting network.]

From 29” to 36” in his video we hear complaints and comments to the end of the tape when there is some comment about “The last 3 days …”.

Remember what we observed in The Guardian video? That the core group of the Kerchers and escorts was moving along, not stopping. By the time we get to the end of the blogger’s video, the Kerchers and their escorts will have been long gone.

At the very end of the video, in the commotion and exchange of angry comments ending with “The last 3 days … “ , the voices aren’t separating, one or the other isn’t walking away. However, the seven seconds from 29” when the Perugian blogger bumps his head / gets his head bumped to the 36” mark are one fifth of the total video, which takes the Kerchers from the doors of the courthouse to well beyond the Perugian blogger.

I doubt that one of the police escorts stopped and waited until the crowd had cleared to insult the blogger.  I also doubt that after bumping his head, “several members of Squadra Mobile … approached him” and that that’s when the vicious attack mandated by Mr. Mignini started.

Who made that possibly insulting comment about “The last 3 days …”? An escort or other security official? A member of the media elbowing with this budding wants-to-be-a-freelance-reporter-but-is-still-a-blogger, and who was ticked off that the blogger hadn’t yet learned media scrum etiquette and that you simply can’t stand up in front of someone’s big fat camera lens (especially if you have an eensy-teeny weenie one, maybe only cellphone)?

Can this disparaging remark and elbowing be linked to a vengeance driven Mignini (vengeance for what? Some broken English comments on a blogspot page?) and his campaign to harass reporters? I doubt it.

Do either of these videos show the imagery that is explicitly described and further insinuated by the CPJ in its Letter to the World, namely that “several members of Squadra Mobile … approached him just outside the city court … and started to push and hit him.” ?

(Source: CPJ’s Letter to the World 19-04-2011)


[Above:  For the moment, Joel Simon of the CPJ has not yet backed down from his description of the terrible incident that he feels the Perugian blogger suffered outside the local courthouse. I guess he’s still waiting on evidence that it didn’t happen.]
If the CPJ is going to continue to justify in the light of these two videos that a squad of goons directed by Mignini “pushed and hit” the Perugian blogger, and turn it into an event which should be informed to 21 World Leaders, well, I honestly think you’ve got it wrong.

Excuse the length of text I’m dedicating to this one test. I don’t want to be pedantic with my frame-by-frame analysis, but I did want to be thorough, just so that there is no doubt about what happened (or, better said, didn’t happen) outside the Perugia Courthouse on 28-10-2008.

Test 1, Step 2: Conclusion

I think that simply by watching the two videos once, even without the frame by frame analysis, it is more than evident that what you have stated in your letter of 19-04-2011 bears no relation to the Truth whatsoever.

Having finished the first test, let’s take a look at how things stand on our Balance Sheet for Testing CPJ’s Anti-Mignini Accusations:


Above: The first test of credibility in the anti-Mignini accusations was pretty easy to do, and it’s one of the hardest ones!

Let’s continue to the next.


Posted by Kermit on 05/13/11 at 09:58 AM in The wider contextsFrancesco SforzaMore hoaxers


Comments

(Hmmmmmm…...take a letter Miss Moneypenny)

Dear Kermit,

We at CPJ will stand by our ill-researched and second hand…..(no,  scrub that)...account of police and prosecutorial brutality towards reporters in Perugia, until such time as :-

(1) Obama declares war on Italy

(2) Our special agent Frank Sfarzo (or whoever he is) posts an open letter of retraction on Perugia Shock

(3) We hear from our insurers with confirmation of indemnity (why are they taking so long?)

Yours sincerely,

Joel (M)

Posted by James Raper on 05/14/11 at 08:39 AM | #

James, your post is satirical but at the same time so representative of the reaction by Joel Simon at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

I guess I was naive enough to think that when we pointed out that the Perugian blogger’s courthouse aggression was in fact an obvious case of media scrum, that the CPJ might come to its senses and realise it had been had.

Instead, they continue to maintain the impossible, that the blogger was beat up by several policemen who approached him, or that he was spied upon in the Press area at the back of the courthouse.

While I was acting naive, the CPJ has turned into an accomplice of the false accusations against Mignini.

That’s a shame for real journalists around the world who are in truly life threatening situations and find that there is no organisation with journalistic integrity out there to support them.

Posted by Kermit on 05/14/11 at 09:38 AM | #

Hi Kermit,

Yes. isn’t it ironical that we have been treated to David C Anderson’s expertise on how vested interests stick together rather than admit to mistakes, and then, to prove him right, CPJ do exactly that.

At least the judiciary have the mechanism to correct mistakes but
campaigners who propagate falsehoods, it seems, plough on regardless until brought to book in other ways. Perhaps in court.

Posted by James Raper on 05/15/11 at 06:23 AM | #

James, you say “at least the judiciary have the mechanism to correct mistakes”.

The protective procedures built into the judiciary seem lacking in the CPJ. We are trying to increase awareness on this issue with persons at different levels in the CPJ. I hope that there is a minimal level of Governance and Internal Control to avoid the organisation turning into a commercial publicity and grudge device ... well, too late for that.

I guess my hope is simply that someone has enough personal integrity to correct a wrong which has been detected and notified to the CPJ.

Posted by Kermit on 05/15/11 at 06:32 AM | #


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