He was questioned for two hours by a parliamentary commission of inquiry into foreign interference, chaired by RN deputy Jean-Philippe Tanguy.

"In recent years, I have had the satisfaction of co-presenting the program +Bring in the accused+, but without knowing that it is I who would find myself on the bench, spectator of my professional killing," said Mr. M'Barki.

"I am accused of having failed my professional ethics by passing unverified information on air and suggesting that I would have been paid for it. All this is false and is pure slander," he said, denouncing a "media lynching".

Presenter of the BFMTV night news and "Bring in the accused" on RMC Story, he was dismissed in February for serious misconduct by the Altice group, to which these channels belong. A complaint against X for passive bribery and breach of trust was filed.

In question, suspicions of foreign interference in his work as presenter of the night news on BFMTV. This concerned a dozen short stories illustrated in pictures, relating in particular to Russian oligarchs, Qatar or Western Sahara.

Mr. M'Barki was implicated in an international investigation by the collective of journalists Forbidden Stories, to which the investigative unit of Radio France and Le Monde contributed for the France.

Published in mid-February, this investigation pointed to the activities of an Israeli company, nicknamed "Team Jorge", specializing in disinformation for the benefit of various customers, including states.

Without questioning the entire investigation, Mr. M'Barki assured that his "alleged involvement" was "a fable".

"If at the head of this investigation we can brandish the head of a television news presenter of a major channel, whose name and face is a little known to the French, then we create a business," he said, targeting the Radio France journalist who participated in the investigation.

M'Barki acknowledged that lobbyist Jean-Pierre Duthion, cited in the Forbidden Stories investigation, was one of his "informants". But he assured that he had "at no time the impression (...) that he could work for someone who was trying to manipulate information."

However, Mr. M'Barki admitted to having aired images provided at his request by this lobbyist, including on an economic forum between Morocco and Spain organized in June in Western Sahara.

"They were neutral images," he said. Revived by an MP, he conceded that it would "perhaps have been necessary" to mention on these images the fact that they came from an external source.

"It may be a mistake not to have done it, is it my mistake or the error of the hierarchy that validated these images" before their release, he defended.

Was it manipulated? "Today, I say no," he said, referring to statements published in early February by the Politico website, which had first reported the suspicions weighing on him.

The commission of inquiry is to hear Thursday the director general of BFMTV, Marc-Olivier Fogiel.

© 2023 AFP