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UK press coverage

April 1997

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[The Guardian - 18 April 1997]

ITN wins apology over Bosnia libel
by Andrew Culf, Media Correspondent.

ITN yesterday won an apology in the libel courts for allegations that its news coverage of Bosnian Serb detention camps had been fabricated.

Two-Ten Communications, a press release distribution company, apologised in the High Court to ITN and its reporters Penny Marshall and Ian Williams for the "very real distress and damage" and paid legal costs.

The company, owned by the Press Association, had transmitted the libellous release in January on its wire service on behalf of Living Marxism magazine, previewing an article by a German journalist, Thomas Deichmann.

It referred to an image taken from the ITN reports in 1992 of an emaciated Muslim, Fikret Alic, behind barbed wire at Trnopolje, which was reproduced by news organisations around the world. Living Marxism alleged that there was no barbed wire and that the image was created by camera angles and editing and had "fooled the world".

The reports won awards from the Royal Television Society and British Academy of Films and Television Arts.

Solicitor Katherine Rimell told Mr Justice Morland the press release had in effect accused ITN of "perpetrating a gross deception on the public by deliberately and dishonestly fabricating the news and then concealing what they had done".

She said the reports were accurate and impartial, and it was clear from the final report of a United Nations commission that Trnopolje was a concentration camp.

Most of the men behind the wire had recently arrived from Omarska and Keraterm camps, described by UN experts as "death camps" where many Muslim prisoners were beaten, tortured and murdered.

Solicitor Karen Mason, for Two-Ten, said it distributed press releases as provided by clients without any editorial input or amendment.

Later ITN said it was happy to accept the apology. "ITN and its correspondents have taken legal action against Living Marxism's libels with reluctance. We and our journalist are proud of our reputation for fairness and accuracy. Living Marxism's untrue allegations were too serious to go unchallenged".

A separate libel action against the magazine and its editor, Mick Hume is still being pursued by ITN.

Mr Hume said Living Marxism would continue its fight with ITN: "The apology from Two-Ten Communications has no bearing on the issues at stake in LM's own libel battle with ITN.

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