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The dangerous Mr Deichmann

German journalist Thomas Deichmann replies to his critics

'Ask yourself, "Who is Thomas Deichmann?" He was a defence witness at the War Crimes Tribunal!' This was what a spokesman for ITN is reported to have told some journalists seeking information about their dispute with myself and LM magazine. The allegation that I cannot be trusted because I gave evidence at the trial of Dusko Tadic has been repeated elsewhere many times.

This is the cheapest scare I have come across since some old person once told me that Russians eat children for breakfast. To set the record straight: I gave evidence at the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague as an expert witness. On the basis of my experience reporting the war in Bosnia, I was asked by Tadic's respected Dutch defence advocate, Professor Mischa Wladimiroff, to compile a factual, statistical report about how the Tadic case had been reported in the German media. I gave evidence on this rather boring report, full of endless figures, before the court. If anybody wants to challenge this report - try it. Otherwise shut up and stop questioning my professional integrity.

Listening to those who claim it discredits me to be associated with the defence case in any way, you get the impression that they would have preferred Tadic to be sentenced (or maybe shot) without any defence whatsoever. On the other hand being a witness for the prosecution, like Ed Vulliamy was, is considered a fine thing. But I think, if my report contributed to a fairer trial, I am glad to have been in the witness box. I prefer a legal system with benches for both prosecution and defence lawyers rather than a Stalinist show-trial or a witch-burning.

I have never sided with any of the warring parties in the Balkans. I hate Serbian nationalism just as I hate any form of nationalism in other countries - including Britain and Germany. Reporting from Bosnia, I saw the tragic consequences of the war for people on all sides. I respect people like Fikret Alic who did not give up and survived the conflict. One incident I will never forget was when I drove a young Croat without valid papers through military checkpoints across Bosnia to reach his family in Split, by sticking my Unprofor presscard on his jacket and pretending he was my translator.

Those who accuse me of some kind of Holocaust denial should ask some Holocaust survivors from around Frankfurt what they think of that defamation. For the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, I was editor-in-chief of a major exhibition about Frankfurt under the Nazis, which taught school children about what happened using film shows and discussions with survivors.

I have built a reputation in Europe as a freelance journalist with high standards, for whom a clear distinction between facts and fictions is an unbreakable rule. My investigation into the ITN pictures of Trnopolje camp has been published in prestigious papers across the continent as well as in LM. It raises serious questions about the image of the Bosnian Muslims behind barbed wire broadcast by ITN on 6 August 1992. I am still waiting for a serious, professional answer instead of more insults.

Photo: Thomas Deichmann (left) and Mick Hume outside ITN HQ

first appeared in LM 98

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