The 'fake news' story about a French Muslim youth 'beaten up for celebrating Christmas'

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A news story stating that a Muslim youth was beaten up on Boxing Day for having celebrated Christmas made the headlines in France. The only problem is that, on closer inspection, there is little evidence that the main claim in the story is true. This did not stop it being reported by many media, or prevent police trade unions and the interior minister Gérald Darmanin from expressing their condemnation of the alleged motives of the attack. David Perrotin and Ilyes Ramdani report on the making of a 'fake news' story.

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It is the story of a fight between youths that, within the space of a few hours, became a symbol of the 'Islamist separatism' that supposedly threatens France. At 8pm on Saturday December 26th 2020 the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) put out a story with a very clear headline: “Muslim attacked for cerebrating Christmas and because he is the son of police officers”. Much of the media, both nationally and abroad, subsequently picked up the story, including Mediapart in our automated news in brief section.