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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK

World: Europe

Nato accused of "media blunders"

General David Wilby and Jamie Shea brief the media

Nato has come under fire from a media organisation for "distorting the truth" and giving "false information" about the war in Yugoslavia.

In a report called War in Yugoslavia, Nato's Media Blunders, the Paris-based Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) said the problems could have arisen from simple mistakes, or could have been deliberate misinformation.

"False information, exorbitant and impossible-to-check figures and the use of debatable historical references have strengthened doubts about the goodwill of certain western political and military leaders," it said in a statement.

[ image: Reporters Sans Frontieres:
Reporters Sans Frontieres: "Doubts about goodwill of certain western leaders"
The group illustrated its concern with the Nato confirmation of the death of ethnic Albanian leader Fehmi Agani and five others.

At the Nato briefing in Brussels, General David Wilby said the report came from a reliable source and had been carefully checked.

But RSF said that his source was in fact the Kosovo Information Centre in London, run by Kosovan exiles.

Agani was killed, but some days later.

"Making a rumour official in this way. during the first week of bombing, would appear to be less the result of a mistake than of a deliberate decision," said the report.

The report gave other examples including a Nato air strike on two convoys initially blamed on the Serbs.

The attack on 14 April was admitted on 19 April. A recording of a pilot alleged to have hit the first convoy was later revealed to have mothing to do with the attacks.

RSF said other features of the Nato briefings were approximate figures, debatable historic references and the use of demonising vocabulary such as "genocide".

"Nato has not shown goodwill in its relations with the media," RSF said.

"It could still be hoped that a coalition of democracies, which claims to have right on its side, would behave with more integrity than the dictatorship it is fighting against," the report ends.

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