Seven denies French newspaper reports Sunday Night’s burkini story was a set up

The Seven Network have denied claims made in a French newspaper that its Sunday Night report on Australians kicked off a beach on the south of France for wearing burkinis was staged.

Last Sunday the network aired a segment on its flagship current affairs show centred around student Zeinab Alshelh who it said travelled to France to show solidarity with Muslims there after burkinis were banned on some beaches in the Riviera, including Cannes.

The segment apparently shows the women being told to leave the beach, where there is no burkini ban, by locals who threatened to call the police, as well as a woman giving the group a thumbs down.

However French newspaper Nice-Matin carried a report this week from people on the beach who claimed the crew misrepresented what happened in the report.

The segment showed a woman giving the group a thumbs down

The segment showed a woman giving the group a thumbs down

One man, who claimed a man filmed asking them to leave was his uncle, told the paper: “He never asked that these three people leave the beach. He was speaking to the camera to ask the cameraman to leave. There were children on the beach, including ours, and we did not want them to be filmed .

Yes, he called the police. Not to respond to the hunt for these people, but to ask how we could do to prevent the camera from filming us, especially our children.” He added: ” At no time people came asking women in Burkini leaving the beach. ”

Another witness accused the crew of using “scripted dialogue” and said they had deliberately set up their camp in the middle of the jet ski ramp, where they knew it would interfere with locals and force them to engage. Another said the reporter and cameraman were hidden behind a car for some of the filming.

A statement from Sunday Night producer Hamish Thompson to The New Daily “denied emphatically” that the segment had been a set up.

It said: “Zeinab was bathing at a beach where the burkini is allowed. She sat with her family, away from other bathers, on the beach, where she and her family wanted to swim. Our crew positioned themselves on the edge of the beach, in full view of everyone. No hidden cameras were used, at any time.”

A further statement from a spokesman read:

On a hot day Zeynab and her family visited Villeneuve Loubet because it was one of the beaches where their swimwear was not banned at the time. We decided to film it from the edge of the beach to give us vision for the story of the family enjoying the water. It was not a “set up” as has been claimed. Zeynab and her family were confronted with hostility, and we did record this strong expression. It happened in front of our crew, and as a news organisation it would be ridiculous for us not to report on it. Members of a large group of beachgoers were pointing at Zeynab and her family and gesticulating at them to leave. One man from this group became very aggressive and approached our camera telling us to leave. To defuse a potentially volatile situation, our group immediately left the beach. We did not fuel the encounter, or use hidden cameras, or hide behind vehicles to record a manufactured situation.

Contrary to claims, the family did not “walk up and down the beach” or sit down in front of the camera or block any “ski jet corridor”. They calmly sat amongst many other beachgoers, none of whom appeared to be causing a problem to any jet ski operation.

To suggest that the encounter was scripted is simply untrue. We did not expect this response from fellow beachgoers as the ban had been lifted on Villeneuve-Loubet beach. Our reporter, Rahni Sadler, who was with the cameraman was not mic’d up as we were simply shooting overlay of the family, who were hoping to have a swim.

At no stage during her time in France did Zeynab visit a beach where a ban was in place wearing a burkini. The only other sequence in France involving Zeynab showed her in the street with a local Muslim woman holding placards inviting people to talk to them about their burkinis. Again, she was respectful of their views and found that many people actually supported the right to wear the burkini.


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