the whole story:
Other LM articles
The mag ITN wants to gag
ITN is using the libel laws to try to silence LM magazine. This
is an unprecedented attack on press freedom by a media giant.
But the battle has only just begun.
The controversy centres on Thomas Deichmann's article, 'The Picture that Fooled the World', published in our February issue, which raises serious questions
about ITN's award-winning pictures of Trnopolje camp in Bosnia,
first broadcast in August 1992.
On 24 January 1997, before the magazine even went on sale, LM
editor Mick Hume received an urgent fax from ITN's lawyers, Biddle
& Co - the same firm who acted for prime minister John Major in
his punitive libel action against the New Statesman.
ITN's lawyers demanded that Hume immediately withdraw February's
LM and pulp every copy, apologise to their journalists and pay
damages. The kind of gagging order normally associated with a
Robert Maxwell or a Sir James Goldsmith was now being attempted
by one of the world's most prestigious news organisations.
When LM told ITN what to do with their threats, they issued writs
for libel. The magazine now faces a long and very costly legal
battle to establish our freedom to publish the truth. Meanwhile
ITN has used all of its influence and its lawyers to scare the
rest of the media off the story. 'ITN does not, of course, seek
to stifle fair public discussion' declares one letter their lawyers
sent to LM. They could have fooled us.
Britain's libel laws are a censorship charter which the rich can
hire to silence their critics. Those who believe in the freedom
of the press must surely oppose this attempt by a multi-million
pound corporation to buy immunity from criticism through the courts.
Yet the ITN journalists responsible for the Trnopolje reports,
Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, have put their names to the libel
writs against LM. And the Guardian journalist who accompanied
them in Bosnia, Ed Vulliamy, has lent his support to ITN's libel
prosecution. So much for Vulliamy's attempt to win a reputation
as a crusader against the abuse of power.
In February, many celebrated when a High Court jury threw out
a police libel action against the Guardian. 'It's a good day for
the press', said the paper's crime correspondent, Duncan Campbell;
'It would be an even better day if the libel law were changed
to give better protection to smaller papers who have been forced
to cave in when threatened with the huge costs of fighting an
action'. We could not agree more with Mr Campbell. We are still
waiting for the statements from the Guardian and the rest of the
press taking a principled stand against ITN's attempt to make
LM magazine 'cave in' before the libel law.
If a cave-in is what ITN expects, we advise them not to hold their
breath. LM magazine stands by Thomas Deichmann's story, and is
prepared to fight all the libel writs and gagging orders they
can throw at us. But we are going to need all the help we can
Details of the LM libel appeal, the 'Off the Fence' fund
'There is a simple way to resolve this matter. ITN should show
the full, unedited videotape that its team shot at Trnopolje on
5 August 1992. Then everybody will know the truth.' LM Editor,
This article first appeared in LM 98