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Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 14:42 GMT
ITN wins Bosnian war libel case
Still from Trnopolje
Living Marxism claimed this picture was "fake"
ITN and two of its reporters have won 375,000 in High Court libel damages from a Marxist magazine which claimed they had faked pictures of Bosnian Serb war crimes.

Reporters Penny Marshall and Ian Williams were each awarded 150,000 over the Living Marxism story which called into question ITN's coverage of the Bosnian war.

The left-wing magazine was also ordered to pay 75,000 to ITN for libelling them in a February 1997 article.

ITN said it would pay its damages to the International Committee of the Red Cross to continue its humanitarian work with the victims of conflict on all sides.

penny marshall
Penny Marshall: Vindicated
ITN, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams sued LM magazine (formerly Living Marxism) over a claim that they misrepresented an image of an emaciated Muslim, Fikret Alic, at the Serb-run Trnopolje camp in August 1992.

They said an article, editorial and press release, headed "The picture that fooled the world", published in February 1997, amounted to a highly damaging attack upon their reputations and professional integrity.

'Caged'

The magazine's editor, Michael Hume, and publishers Informinc (LM) Ltd and Helene Guldberg, had denied libel.

They said the criticism of the reporters was justified because they had deliberately selected shots of Mr Alic "caged behind barbed wire".


This case was about what happened in those camps in northern Bosnia. What we have seen is a sordid attempt to rewrite history

ITN reporter Ian Williams
They also relied on fair comment and said no-one would have understood the allegations to refer to ITN.

The article, written by German freelance Thomas Deichmann, asserted there was no barbed wire around the camp, which he said was a collection centre for refugees and not a prison.

He said the wire was actually around the news team, who were filming from a small enclosure next to the camp.

LM, which claimed it was a "shoe-string" operation constantly on the verge of going under financially, now faces a bill for legal costs unofficially estimated at more than 300,000, on top of the damages.

'Vindicates ITN journalists'

After the hearing, the magazine's editor said LM did not have the resources to pay the damages or costs and the magazine's future was uncertain.

Outside the court, Ms Marshall said: "Today's decision is important for ITN in that it vindicated its journalists and cameramen."

ian williams
Ian Williams: "Freedom of speech is essential."
Mr Williams added: "This case was about what happened in those camps in northern Bosnia. What we have seen is a sordid attempt to rewrite history."

Ms Marshall and Mr Williams also issued a joint statement which said: "There was never any doubt whatsoever that the allegations made against us were both untrue and unfounded.

"The reports in question were filmed and presented with the professionalism and integrity that would be expected of us.


The only thing this court case has proved 'beyond reasonable doubt' is that English libel law is a disgrace to democracy and a menace to a free press

LM Magazine editor Michael Hume
"LM was given every opportunity to retract the article and its allegations.

'No freedom to print lies'

"There is absolutely no doubt that freedom of speech is essential to society.

"But the freedom to print lies masquerading as the truth, as LM did, is not."

Mr Hume said in a statement: "The only thing this court case has proved 'beyond reasonable doubt' is that English libel law is a disgrace to democracy and a menace to a free press.

"We apologise for nothing. But we will not be appealing. Life is too short, and other issues too important, to waste any more time in the bizarre world of the libel courts.

"As I told the judge and jury, I believe in the right of people to judge the truth for themselves in the court of public opinion."

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See also:

28 Feb 00 | UK
ITN launches libel action
28 Feb 00 | Europe
Bosnian war crime trial starts
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