The picture that fooled the world

News Release 14:00 Tuesday 4 February 1997


Sunday's Observer carried a major feature by Ed Vulliamy attacking Thomas Deichmann's article, 'The Picture That Fooled The World', published in the February issue of LM magazine.

In response to Vulliamy, LM editor Mick Hume says:

'Ed Vulliamy's accusation of historical revisionism against LM magazine and Thomas Deichmann is a favourite witch-hunting tactic of our times. As even the British government has discovered, the cheapest way to discredit somebody these days is to try to associate them with Nazism. People like Vulliamy will now shout about Holocaust denial whenever somebody dares to disagree with them. And yet he has the nerve to accuse us of trivialising genocide and insulting its victims.

'Vulliamy's histrionics - "filth", "poison" etc - are a smokescreen behind which he avoids the central issue in Thomas Deichmann's article: how the famous ITN pictures of Bosnian Muslims at Trnopolje camp were taken, presented and interpreted. He says that he knows the picture of Fikret Alic apparently caged behind barbed wire was not a "misleading image" but an "honest shot", because he was there on 5 August 1992 and we were not. But you do not have to have ever set foot in Bosnia to know the truth; the unedited rushes which the British news team shot on that day reveal the whole story. If he is so sure of his facts, perhaps Vulliamy could persuade his friends at ITN to comply with our request to broadcast that film in full.

'For a journalist who insists that eye-witnesses know best, Ed Vulliamy appears to have a remarkably poor memory. His impressions of Trnopolje camp seem to have altered several times over the past four and a half years. For instance, in Sunday's Observer piece, Vulliamy writes that as the news team approached Trnopolje on 5 August 1992 they were "met by an unforgettable sight: a group of men gathered behind a barbed wire fence, some of them skeletal, talking of mass murder in yet more camps". Yet in his first report on Trnopolje, published in the Guardian on 7 August 1992, he did not mention a word about the barbed wire fence that has now become so "unforgettable". Several other mysterious inconsistencies have somehow crept into Vulliamy's story.

'Ed Vulliamy finds "outrageous" my statement that "journalists who have some kind of emotional attachment in a conflict can end up seeing what they want to see, rather than what is really there". The word "attachment" he finds "particularly odious", since proper journalists are "always objective".

'In fact the term "journalism of attachment" was coined by Martin Bell of the BBC, who is leading the post-Bosnia calls for journalists to side with "good" against "evil" rather than just reporting facts. Vulliamy himself is a prime exponent of the "journalism of attachment", and he has not previously been shy about taking sides in Bosnia. Vulliamy's declarations of objectivity in the Observer sit a little uneasily with his remarks at the start of his book Seasons in Hell, where he denounces the "bizarre requirement that we remain 'objective' over the most appalling racialist violence. There is no attempt here to be objective towards the perpetrators of Bosnia's ethnic carnage or those who appeased them." (page xi)

'The final irony is that Ed Vulliamy, who has tried to win a reputation as a crusader against corruption in high places and the abuse of power, should now declare his support for ITN's attempt to gag LM magazine through the libel courts - an unprecedented attack on press freedom by a multi-million pound news organisation.

'LM stands 100 per cent behind Thomas Deichmann's story. We fully intend to fight all of the libel writs and gagging orders they throw at us. And now that Ed Vulliamy has been given the opportunity to put his side of the story, we ask the national media to let us state our case.'

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