by Felix Quigley

July 5, 2008

Or this could be labelled the strange memory lapses of Penny Marshall. Marshall laughably could not remember hardly anything about the barbed wire. Did the barbed wire surround the ITN team and Vulliamy in the small enclosure that they had entered, or did it surround the whole area, which O’Kane and others were calling a “concentration camp”. She and her photographer, though, had taken a lot of care in composing their infamous photograph with the essential elements 1. a skinny man and 2. barbed wire over his chest. Strange that lapse of memory by Marshall! I mean the barbed wire did figure in her thinking then. The other thing about this report by Deichmann is the admission by the judge in the case.

[begin report by Deichmann here]

Libel for False Television Pictures
© by Thomas Deichmann

Translated by Max Sinclair for

On March 14th 2000 the “High Court” in London found the Chief editor of the British magazine LM (previously Living Marxism ) along with its publisher Helene Guldberg and her publishing house Informinc guilty after eleven days of court room proceedings in a stressful libel case. They were sentenced to pay fines of 75,000 pounds sterling to the British news channel Independent Television News (ITN) and 150,000 pounds to two of its reporters, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams. The defendants were also ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees – an additional 300,000 pounds. The total fine is calculated as more than one million US dollars. After the reading of the verdict Mike Hume and [publisher] Helene Guldberg said they would have to declare bankruptcy.

Another immediately implemented part of the punishment had the effect of shutting down most of LA’s Website ( ) the same day. A few hours after the conclusion of the legal battle LM received a letter from ITN asking when payment of the fine could be expected.

Censor for Rent

A tragic chapter in modern media history was brought to an end by this case. It may just usher in a new Era.

(Just to interject here. Deichmann is full of illusions in capitalism and Imperialism and he expreses this here. He thinks that Imperialism in its death agony is going to reform its act. Some chance! Shows the illusions in the system of this LM groups also…Felix Quigley)

London, the “Mecca of the Libel Suit”, was used for the first time by a mighty media corporation as a type of censor to knock an unloved and weaker opponent out of the running. The arrogant behaviour of ITN, represented during the hearing by Chief Editor Richard Tait, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, is a harsh blow to every journalist. It is also a warning to investigative reporters whose job it is to go against the mainstream and to help bring difficult truths to daylight.

The publication of my article “The Picture that fooled the World” in the February 1997 edition of LM was the catalyst which began the saga. This article had already been printed in highly regarded European publications and been copied many times over. In it I showed in great detail that the famous ITN-pictures of an emaciated Bosnian Muslim behind a barbed wire fence taken at the Bosnian Serb camp of Trnopolje in August 1992 was a fake.

ITN and its reporters received much-desired prizes for this story. Since 1992, they have been continually praised for the high quality of their work. The trip to the High Court was also an attempt to bolster ITN’s reputation which had come under attack by a growing number of critics in the last few years. ITN also suffered from a shrinking audience.

ITN’s victory left a foul aftertaste – so openly did the media giant attempt to manipulate the process. Immediately after the verdict, ITN set its PR-apparatus in motion in order to newly publicize the story. Statements by both reporters and the news channel tried to leave the uninformed viewer with the impression that the Judge found that the LM-Article of February 1997 was incorrect. The situation is actually reversed of what ITN tried to convey.

ITN Reporter behind barbed wire

In my 1997 article, I showed, in great detail, first that there was no barbed wire fence surrounding Trnopolje and the Muslims filmed there. Second, that the barbed wire on the (in)famous ITN pictures belonged to an old Train station beside the so-called camp grounds. Third, that the British reporters stood inside this property surrounded by barbed wire and from inside there filmed the (in)famous pictures. Third, that nowhere else in Trnopolje did any barbed wire exist. And fourth, that the conclusions made by politicians and the media worldwide, that Trnopolje was a concentration camp similar to Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen was based on a hoax.

The first three aspects of the case were proved during the hearing on the libel suit. In particular, the original uncut ITN film was helpful. This was the same film I used in my analysis in Autumn 1996. The fourth point, that Trnopolje was not a concentration camp, was not contested in the hearing. None of the witnesses argued that Trnopolje was a concentration camp. Judge Morland gave his summary the day before the end of the case and stressed to the jury that the reporters were surrounded by a barbed wire fence in August 1992 :

  • “…..The decision is yours. But isn’t it clear, after examining thee unedited pictures and the bundle of photographs from Herr Deichmann, that before the Civil War the area surrounding the garage…and the electrical transformer was fenced in? This fence was made up of tall metal posts on the top of which was fastened barbed wire and below ordinary wire mesh. It had a gate to the east bound street. Ian Williams, Penny Marshall, and her camera crew openly contradict themselves if they say they did not realize they were surrounded by the old barbed wire fence……..”

Unquestionable hindsight

Judge Morland then said: “But does this matter at all to the case ?” He reminded the members of the jury what this Libel case was about. The central question which the jury had to decide on was: In the eyes of the court did LM lie when it said that the ITN reporters deliberately published a misleading photo ?

The case therefore did not rest on whether the photos were misleading; instead it concerned whether the reporters publicized the photos with intent to deceive. At the beginning of his summation the Judge stated his agreement with my investigative reporting. However, he then defined the situation of the violation in an exceptional way:

“…Worthy Jurors, you may think that it is necessary in a democratic society that Journalists are fearless investigators of injustice. You will especially note how exceptionally important it is that Reporters are faithful to the truth and fairness. It is proper that a Journalist should say so when he discovers another Journalist has been sloppy, unfair, and irresponsible.

“But you should not think that the case which stands before you revolves around whether Penny Marshall or Ian Williams were sloppy, unfair, or irresponsible. The key question in this case is, did the defendants prove that Penny Marshall and Ian Williams deliberately – and I stress the word ‘deliberately’ – create irresponsible television pictures…”

Nick Hyham, media director of the BBC, recapitulated the explanation of the Judge in a news commentary on the day of the verdict in the following manner:

“…..The Judge said, LM described the events correctly, but that didn’t matter in the issue….”

The verdict ignored the underhanded tricks ITN and both reporters availed themselves of in their libel suit against LM. It strengthened the repressive English libel laws that are considered so frightening inside media circles. It established the libelous connotation of my article, an accompanying leader by Mick Hume, and a LM press release circulated in January 1997. LM is said to have claimed that ITN and its reporters deliberately and with full knowledge lied to the world. Actually, I am of the opinion that the reporters must have known exactly what they were doing at the time. However, this was not the thrust of my article.

ITN put itself on center stage of the suit because the ITN lawyers, Biddle & Co., knew that in this manner they could not lose the libel suit. The fact that in English libel law the burden of proof lies with the accused (further indication of the absurdity of this law) meant that LM had to prove the bad intentions of the ITN reporters in order for the court to decide in LM’s favour. The verdict did not come as a surprise to the LM team. Publisher Mick Hume commented:

“…We had to prove the unprovable…..”

Missing Memories

Despite all this Gavin Millar, LM’s attorney, worked to convince the jury of the correctness of my article. He also exerted himself to establish that the two ITN reporters must have know that at the time they took the (in)famous pictures that they were on the small property surrounded by barbed wire.

No one, with the exception of Penny Marshall’s cameraman, could answer the question just how Ian Williams was able to go from the fenced-in property to the open field just to the west of it; even though it is plain to see on the ITN video tapes. Williams, as the first witness in the case, answered he simply ran around the corner. He also could not remember when confronted with the ITN pictures which clearly showed how impossible his written description was of the barbed wire fence and the length of the west side of the area. At the end of his testimony, on the fourth day of the court room proceedings he stated that it was a “lie” that the reporters were surrounded by barbed wire.

During the testimony of the next witness, only a few hours later, Judge Morland intervened and gave his opinion that after viewing the ITN tapes many times, he was convinced that the reporters were indeed surrounded by barbed wire. He advised the ITN lawyer not to waste any more time on the matter. On the next day, Ian William’s sound man offered a new version of the story, that William’s team had come through the fence somewhere further south of the open field, possibly through a hole in the fence, which somehow never showed up on the ITN tapes.

Penny Marshall also had memory lapses specifically regarding the fenced in property, even though it was uncontested that she entered through a hole in the fence from the south side. She could neither remember that she was surrounded by barbed wire nor could she remember how she exited the fenced in property.

Gavin Millar, LM’s attorney, was prevented from posing the question to the ITN reporters whether it had ever crossed their minds at the time (August 1992) that the (in)famous pictures of the emaciated Muslim taken behind barbed wire could trigger comparisons with the Holocaust. He also was forbidden to ask if they realized that their images represented a major scoop given the widely disseminated speculative reports of possible “Concentration Camps” and “Death Camps” in the North. Millar succeeded numerous times entangling the ITN employees in misstatements – but he was unable to prove ITN’s deliberate manipulation.

Disappearing Videotapes and Defense Witnesses

One of factor was that the most important video tape was lost by the ITN archives. This tape showed Penny Marshall surrounded by the barbed wire fence. Only a short sequence of this tape could be seen in the courtroom having been taken from a news program in August 1992. The complete uncut tape remains lost. It would surely be able to show how Penny Marshall moved around the fenced in property and how she commented on the situation. The first time the subject of the disappearing videotape came up an uproar ran through the courtroom audience.

The video tape of a Bosnian-Serbian cameraman in Military uniform, which was shot on the same day as Penny Marshall Trnopolje filmed could not make up for the loss of the ITN tape. However, it did show that Penny Marshall interviewed two other men before she waved her hand at the emaciated man with the exposed upper body and called out a friendly greeting. This directly contradicted her presentation in the ITN news show and in later interviews.

One of the men in blue overalls interviewed introduced himself as Mehmet. He repeatedly stressed when questioned by the British reporter, that the Trnopolje Camp was not a prison but a refugee center and he felt safe there.

At the beginning of the process the ITN lawyer was able to invoke the English censorship law, to the effect that all further witnesses for the defense were shut out of the case. The most prominent was John Simpson, BBC World Affairs Editor, one of the most highly regarded reporters in the world. Former War Crimes expert and publicist Philip Knightley, author of the book “The First Casualty,” was also denied the opportunity to take the witness stand. In addition, the London Queen’s Counsel Steven Kay was also shut out from testifying. For good measure, the scope of my own testimony was severely limited.

Smear Campaign

Just before it was published in the Spring of 1997, LM’s publisher issued a press release announcing my article. As ITN’s chief editor Richard Tait admitted on the witness stand, nobody at ITN had even read the article at that point. Nevertheless, they instituted legal action on the spot to get all copies of that issue of LM destroyed.

Then, in addition to the charge of libel, ITN tried sue LM for “malice.” They used the malice suit as a vehicle for attacking my article, calling it insulting and false, saying it had been written for the sole purpose of spreading pro-Serbian propaganda. As proof, they provided a list of LM articles on the Balkan crisis. Included was an excerpt from my interview with Austrian novelist, Peter Handke in the Spring of 1996.

The malice suit allowed the spreading of vicious lies and gossip. For instance, I was a paid agent of the Serbs; I was married to one and so on. This despite oft-repeated protestations that I had no such connections to the Serbs and supported none of the parties in the Bosnian Civil War. Ed Vulliamy, the Guardian reporter who accompanied Penny Marshall’s crew to the North Bosnian camp in August 1992, contributed by writing hysterical defamations.

The malice charge was thrown out by Judge Morland. ITN’s lawyer Shields didn’t object because it was obviously indefensible. It is clear this charge was only added to the libel suit in order to foster the smear campaign.

Historical Revisionism

ITN lawyer Tom Shields stressed, during the trial, that the miserable condition of Trnopolje was noteworthy. The plaintiffs brought also as a witness a Muslim Physician who the guards forced to care for the camp’s inhabitants in the Summer of 1992. At the time he was also interviewed by Penney Marshall and secretly gave her a camera with poorly lighted photographs on a undeveloped film. The photos showed spotlighted Bosnian Muslims who had been beaten and mishandled by the Serb guards. The Physician described on the witness stand the rape and assault of defenseless civilians. I never disputed these facts. His testimony was without question the most moving of the entire trial. Despite this, my impression was that this only influenced the Jury enough to score a few moral points for ITN. LM attorney Millar declined a cross examination and later asked me if I wished to speak with the Physician. I answered no.

The witness testimony of the Physician and remarks and questions of Tom Shields all pointed in the same direction: to awaken a specific impression. This impression was that I wished for Serbs, who were guilty of such evil acts, to be somehow left unpunished.”

In a similar manner this attitude was brought home to me in the past few years by Journalists with a mission to Save-The-World from Baddies. These journalists had left behind their professional discipline in every one of their Balkan articles which were filled with their eccentric moralizing. If not filled with their blend of moral fever, then the articles consisted of a demented world full of genocide and mass graves. LM publisher Mick Hume during his testimony that he welcomed the publication of my article in LM, because it questioned the misuse of the Holocaust for political ends. By equating the Bosnian Civil War with the Holocaust the history of the 20th century was finally rewritten.

Refugee Center or Prison

The ITN lawyer exerted himself to question my description of the Trnopolje camp as a refugee center in which many Muslims sought safety from the bloody Civil War going on around them. During my testimony it became clear that Tom Shield, despite his hectoring me with morally laden catch phrases, didn’t have the slightest idea what had happened during the Bosnian Civil . Trnopolje was surely a frightening place, but it was also surely not a Prison and most surely not a concentration camp.

Some of those who were there at the time in August 1992 revise their own analysis of the events the further the Bosnian War recedes into the past without presenting any new interpretations or facts. For example, ITN at the time the film was made reported that the group of Bosnian Muslim men on the other side of the barbed wire were not free to leave the camp which was surrounded by heavily armed guards. I never verified this report. More importantly I was able to verify that these men had arrived from another camp, shortly before the British reporters arrived, and were waiting to register for a place to sleep. This explanation of the situation was confirmed through interviews with these men on the ITN tapes and the statements of independent observers.

In her Television report of August 6, 1992 Penny Marshal said herself that these men had come from another camp and had been brought to Trnopolje. That refugees could leave the camp at any time they so desired was stated in my article as well as confirmed from many other sources.

I also accurately described in my article that in the area of the Trnopolje camp there were other fences (low wire mesh fences that enclosed small properties, a low metal fence which surrounded the school building). These fences were also documented in a sketch which accompanied the LM article. A lonely barbed wire fence also stood next to the old Train Station with the old roadbed.

Sword of Damocles

The barbed wire parcel in the ITN film in which the reporters found themselves became the critical detail for people to have proof that concentration camps existed in Bosnia. The single positive outcome of the courtroom proceedings at the High Court in London was that it was finally proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that neither the camp nor the filmed Muslims were surrounded by barbed wire. Rather, it was the journalists who were surrounded by barbed wire as my article had shown. On the other hand, the verdict spells the end of LM and now hangs like a sword of Damocles over every English journalist. LM, a sassy, opinionated magazine with intelligent if contrary reporting was brought to ruin. One can hope that other media organizations and journalists will not follow the ITN example. Instead, we hope they follow the example of publications like LM and its creators. One can also hope that reaction to the case strengthens the reform of or perhaps even the abolition England’s libel laws.

These laws will never stand the test of the European Human Rights Commission in the European Unification process. One time an American Court refused to support a English Court’s libel judgment because it ran so contrary to the libertarian tenor of the American Constitution. Richard Tait, Penny Marshall, and Ian William should be ashamed of their manipulation and direction of the entire process. TD

[end of post trial analysis by Deichmann]

I have tried not to break too much into thios report by Deichmann, the main player in this trial, but it is clear even from the last remark by Deichmann that in the field of revolutionary strategy, or even of living in the real world, Deichmann was a bit of a space cadet. he really had no idea. Rather than there being any reform prompted by Europe, or by the US!!!, these forces of Imperialism were gearing up for all out dictatorship and war. Deichmann sort of accidentally got caught up in one of the battles.

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