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 Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Milosevic attacks BBC 'bias'
Milosevic cross-examines Jacky Rowland
Milosevic accused the BBC of unfair reporting
The BBC's former Belgrade correspondent, Jacky Rowland, has clashed with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic while giving evidence at his war crimes trial.

She was cross-examined by Mr Milosevic in a tense exchange, which focused on the BBC's objectivity and impartiality.

Ms Rowland insisted that her reports from the former Yugoslavia had been fair and objective.

I think anyone who knew me in Yugoslavia at that time, including Kosovo Serbs, would say I was one of the fairest and most objective reporters they knew

Jacky Rowland
She had been called to the tribunal to testify about what she saw at Dubrava prison in Kosovo in 1999, where she found inmates lying dead.

The Serb authorities claimed the victims had been killed by Nato bombs, but she reported at the time that it was unclear how they had died.

She told Mr Milosevic that they did not appear to her to be the victims of bombing.

"If you were hit by a bomb - heaven forbid - I think I'd be able to tell by looking at your body whether that was the manner of death," she told him.

A previous witness claimed Serb guards had shot most of the victims.

Tribunal judge Richard May told Ms Rowland he believed that Mr Milosevic was also calling into question the wider issue of the objectivity of other BBC reports from Kosovo.

Jacky Rowland
Jacky Rowland: "I took a great deal of pride in my work"
"What the accused is putting to you is that the BBC was not necessarily objective, that here was one objective report, but the fact that there was one objective report doesn't mean all the reports were objective," said Judge May.

But Ms Rowland insisted she took a great deal of pride in her work from the region.

"I think anyone who knew me in Yugoslavia at that time, including Kosovo Serbs, would say I was one of the fairest and most objective reporters they knew," she said.

"I am very happy to say the BBC enjoys probably the best international reputation of any international broadcaster for being objective."

She pointed out that her features from the region had included one on how Serbs were being demonised.

Tribunal first

And looking directly at the ex-leader, she told him: "During the Nato bombing campaign, Mr Milosevic, as you well know, the British Government was sharply critical of BBC coverage.

"At one stage some government officials referred to us as the Belgrade Broadcasting Corporation."

This is the first time a journalist has testified at the Milosevic trial, although several others have given evidence at previous trials held by the tribunal.

Mr Milosevic is accused of more than 60 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflicts in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia.

I think despite himself he found himself warming to me as our discussion went on

Jacky Rowland
Ms Rowland told the BBC after giving evidence that she had been nervous before her testimony started, but had quite "enjoyed herself" in the witness box.

"Mr Milosevic is a worthy adversary when it comes to a discussion and argument," she said.

"I'd say he was rather belligerent and a little hostile to begin with, but I think despite himself he found himself warming to me as our discussion went on.

"In fact, by the end, it was becoming far more of an exchange rather than an inquisitorial situation."

Ms Rowland rejected the suggestion that her testimony at a war crimes trial might put journalists at risk during future conflicts. She stressed that her decision to testify had been a matter of personal conscience.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jacky Rowland discusses the trial
"I bear witness to viewers and listeners of the BBC every day that I work"
  The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
"Slobodan Milosevic and Jacky Rowland locked horns in a dynamic cross-examination"

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26 Aug 02 | Europe
05 Oct 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
26 Jul 02 | Europe
26 Jul 02 | Europe
28 Jun 02 | Europe
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