ITN and its friends in the press have recently tried to create the impression that they have won the legal battle over Thomas Deichmann's article 'The Picture That Fooled The World', published in the February issue of LM Magazine. Dream on.
LM has not backed down before ITN's threats. LM has not issued any apology to anybody. LM's battle against ITN's libel writs and gagging orders is only just beginning. And the LM libel appeal, The Off The Fence Fund, still needs all the help it can get to win the fight for press freedom.
The truth about the recent developments in the case is this. LM is continuing to fight the libel writs which ITN has issued against its editor and publisher, over Thomas Deichmann's revelations about ITN's award-winning reports from a Bosnian camp. The only case which has been settled is a minor sideshow, involving a separate libel writ which ITN issued against a company that distributed an LM press release in January.
On 17 April, Two-Ten Communications (a subsidiary of the Press Association) issued a High Court apology to ITN and two of its journalists, over allegations made in a Living Marxism press release promoting Thomas Deichmann's article. The Two-Ten case was reported in the Guardian, The Times and on Ceefax and Sky Text in terms which gave the clear impression that ITN had won a major legal battle over Deichmann's allegations.
But there was no legal battle. Two-Ten Communications' lawyers offered no defence. They simply made a short, formal apology (but paid no damages), and then ITN's lawyers read out a lengthy statement giving their own version of what happened at Trnopolje camp on 5 August 1992. The court made no examination whatsoever of Thomas Deichmann's counter evidence, and no jury passed judgement on who was telling the truth.
Two-Ten Communications is only a commercial distributor of press releases which, as its own solicitor's courtroom statement makes clear, 'does not make any comment or judgement on the content of such press releases'. For Two-Ten, apologising to ITN was strictly a business matter, to do with protecting commercial relations.
For LM Magazine, however, the battle against ITN's libel writs is an issue of principle to do with defending press freedom, and opposing the attempt of a mega news corporation to buy immunity from criticism through the courts. That is why LM is continuing with its own defence and refusing to apologise.
As LM editor Mick Hume said after the Two-Ten case:
'Judgement as to who is telling the truth about the ITN reports will have to wait until all the evidence is finally made public. We have that evidence. We know we are right. And we repeat our challenge to ITN: if you are so certain of your case, why not show all of the film that your team shot at Trnopolje on 5 August 1992, and let the world judge for itself?
'ITN's purpose in pursuing its phoney war against Two-Ten has been to establish a legal precedent, scare the rest of the media off Thomas Deichmann's story, and create the false impression that they have won. The result of this gagging order is that a story which has been debated in serious papers across Europe remains blockaded in Britain.
'One interesting piece of evidence has come out of the Two-Ten case, however. If you read the ITN lawyer's statement in full, you will see that ITN and its journalists have been forced to admit, for the first time in almost five years since the reports were first broadcast, that there was no barbed wire fence surrounding Fikret Alic and other men at Trnopolje camp. That concedes one of the central points in Thomas Deichmann's argument about how their pictures fooled the world. There will be many more such revelations before the case is over.
'We stand by our story. Watch this space.'
For further information and comment contact:
Jan Macvarish LM Press Officer
0171 278 9908 or 0831 246 694
Send messages of support, offers of help and MONEY to The Off the Fence Fund, BM Off the Fence, London WC1N 3XX. Make cheques payable to Off the Fence Fund.