NEWS RELEASE EMBARGOED 00:01 Thursday 6 March 1997
FIRST PUBLIC SHOWING OF ITN FILM AT CENTRE OF BOSNIA REPORTING ROW
The film at the centre of what has become the most talked about war-reporting controversy since the Gulf war will be shown to the public tonight for the first time.
The picture of emaciated Bosnian Muslim Fikret Alic, apparently caged behind a barbed wire fence, that was taken from the award-winning ITN report filmed at the Trnopolje camp on 5 August 1992, became an enduring symbol of the Bosnian war. The picture provoked an international outcry and was seen by much of the world as proof that the Bosnian Serbs were running Nazi-style 'concentration camps'. But controversy has surrounded the picture for the past month after an investigation by German journalist Thomas Deichmann questioned the way in which this powerful image was produced and interpreted.
It is Deichmann's copy of the unedited ITN report that will be shown tonight to an audience of journalists and readers of LM, the magazine that published Deichmann's article. LM editor Mick Hume, who is being sued for libel by ITN, will address the audience in defence of a free press. The event will launch the 'Off the Fence Fund' which aims to raise money to defend LM in court.
Deichmann himself is incensed by the reaction to his article in Britain.
"In Germany, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland journalists have freely reported my story and the substance of the investigation has been debated both within and beyond the media. In Britain, the country which should be most outraged by the story, reporting has been restricted by ITN's wielding of libel threats not just against LM magazine, but against other journalists who have tried to pursue the story. I am bringing my evidence to Britain to give people there the opportunity to judge for themselves what ITN does not apparently want them to see".
Deichmann will be joined on the platform by George Kenney, the US Department of State official who resigned in August 1992 in protest at US policy toward the Yugoslav crisis. Kenney has become a well-known commentator on the crisis, appearing extensively on US television and writing for US and European newspapers on the subject. He will speak about how, from his post in the centre of US policy-making, he witnessed the impact the ITN report had on public understanding of the war and on US foreign policy.
George Kenney says,
"Everybody over forty in the United States remembers three or four things in common. The most shared memory of "where were you and what were you doing when 'x' happened?" is the assassination of President Kennedy. ITN's pictures practically reach that level: anybody who watches the news remembers them. The psychological shock to the public at the time was enormous. And they remain the most important influence on public perceptions of what happened in Bosnia, notwithstanding a stream of subsequent information to the contrary".
Over 300 people are expected to attend the event at Church House, Westminster, to see for themselves the "picture that fooled the world" and to discuss the issues raised by it.