ITN vs Deichmann and Truth -- Report on Jan. 31 press conference

[p.s. Our gratitude to a London friend for filing this report!

Report on a press conference held by Mick Hume and Thomas Deichmann, 31 January 1997, 13:30 GMT.

Mick Hume opened the press conference with a few comments on background. When we take the story to news institutions, everyone says "what a great story" - yet no one wants to cover it. The reason is the ITN blockade.

ITN's lawyers sent a letter demanding that the whole print run of the magazine be pulped, damages and an apology to the journalists involved. All they failed to do was ask us to clean their washrooms as well.

Our response was to take the story and distribute it to ITN journalists.

For the past few days ITN has been threatening that a writ for libel is "coming today".

LM's response is two demands:

Show the full unedited rushes; Resolve the question of awards given for the film, including one by the Royal Television Society.

Thomas Deichmann then started with some background about himself, because journalists are ringing him up with all sorts of strange stories:

He is a freelance journalist based in Frankfurt, Germany;
His articles in the past have appeared in 20-25 European newspapers and magazines;
He was an expert witness for the defence in the Dusan Tadic case at UN Tribunal in The Hague - anyone who imagines that his testimony was other than facts and figures of German TV coverage of Dusan Tadic should contact Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald at the Tribunal;
He is married, but not to a Serb;
He has reported from Bosnia and Croatia over the last four years;
For the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII he organised a large exhibition on Fascism in Frankfurt;
The point behind the story is not to "downgrade" the situation in Bosnia at the time. There were no "nice" camps, there never are in wars;
If the Trnopolje camp had not existed, more people would have died, because many regarded it as the safest place to be in the area.

ITN questioned his own integrity, without even bothering to read the story. In their press release they talk of "finding" the camps, which is a strange way to describe how they were escorted by the Bosnian Serb military to Omarska and Trnopolje.

A British journalist rang the UN Tribunal and spoke to Christian Chartier, Tribunal spokesman. When asked whether Trnopolje was surrounded by barbed wire, after considerable time spent checking, Chartier said "No". However, Chartier added that the barbed wire and buildings were "erected to keep prisoners from another camp to keep these people there".

Thomas Deichmann has only one of several tapes the ITN film produced in the UK. He has other tapes in Germany [he was only expecting to be in the UK a couple of days, he's now been here over a week].

The full tapes cover the starting point in Belgrade, where the team visited refugee centres, the trip to Pale, Prijedor, Omarska camp and Trnopolje. Two of the other tapes Thomas has cover Trnopolje, including Penny Marshall's second visit several days later.

Thomas then showed three pieces of film. The first was a 20 minute piece from Trnopolje, the second a film taken in Trnopolje last Autumn, taken from the same location as one of the ITN shots, and the third was the Trnopolje piece as released for broadcast.

The early part of the Trnopolje film shows a young, 19-years-old, Bosnian Serb guard, Igor, talking to the crew, asking them to talk to people standing in the shade of a tree in the background. Igor explains that he has friends inside, his former teacher is there. He explains that the (Bosnian Serb) army brings food and water. "Please ask these people" he says. "Do you want to live together again?" "I want, now a very big problem," says Igor. Over with a crowd of men behind a small fence (no barbed wire) Igor meets a friend. "Is he a guard?" his friend is asked. "Yes". "Is he your friend?" "Yes." They used to play in the street together. "Are you prisoners?" "We're not in jail". Another friend arrives, shakes Igor's hand warmly. "What are you doing here? What is this place?" A shake of the head, not understanding the question. To Igor "Are you here to keep people in?" "No I have a commander. He says I am to be here to protect, first, me [may mean the commander] and these people."

The film then show some of the temporary shelters the refugees have constructed. Further proof [along with the plan from the spy photo] that shelters were built prior to Marshall's visit, not afterwards. A car can be seen in the bacground driving through the refugee camp [unimpeded by barbed wire]

To more men "Have there been any bad treatment here.... no, here." Shakes of heads. Film then of inside the school, blankets on the floor, possesions marking out sleeping areas. Blankets are double-bed size.

Outside again some men arrive with bags of apples and bread. With some of these they walk towards some expectant men. Some men crowd around a man with some food. Other refugees are making motions with their fingers indicating they want cigarettes. [So, although food was sought after, cigarettes were as important]

Interview with Pero Curguz, local Red Cross official. "What does he need?".

Curguz says "People have come this morning because they wanted to come" [the group of new refugees, including Fikret Alic, who have come from Keraterm].

Pictures from the crowded medical centre. To the doctor "Have there been beatings?", he nods his head. "Many?" he is non-committal.

Pictures taken from the road beside the barbed wire enclosed compound. The camera pans from left to right and back towards the left again, starting with some of the film crew who are inside the enclosure, talking and pointing in different directions, the electricity transformer can be seen in the background, panning past the barn, which is in a poor state of repair [remember, Christian Chartier of the UN War Crimes Tribunal says this was specially constructed for the new arrivals!] and then on the right a group of shirtless men can be seen in the distance. Behind them is a building, and the tall pole of a streetlight [it looked more like a telephone or electricity pole]. This is where it becomes clear that the men are outside the barbed wire compound. In the broadcast footage the building and pole can still be seen behind them, and the journalists can only be on the iside of the compound looking out to the curious refugees [this may be the first time refugees haven't felt like they were in a zoo when visited by the press - this time it was the press who were the, caged, spectacle]

There is then a long shot of people moving on the street [so, free to leave, though it could be dangerous] and another shot of tents and temporary huts, then more pictures from inside, were some men are lucky enough to have beds and matresses, though the beds are tight close to each other. "What's it like here?" "It's alright, but I don't know where my wife is". The film continues with scenes from inside the school and community centre for another 5-6 minutes.

The second film is a short piece taken a few months ago, from the approximate position of the ITN crew outside the compound, while they were doing the "panning" shot. The barbed wire has gone, but the poles are still there. The barn is still in a poor state of repair, the community centre and the big metal poll are still in the same place, again from these the location of the refugees 4 1/2 years ago could be imagined. The TV crew were on the inside of the barbed wire, looking out.

The third film showed the ITN film as broadcast in a German documentary. Penny Marshall enters the compound, through a break in the fence [not using the gate, which was elsewhere] a group of women in the shade of a tree are ignored. Cut to the crew approaching the fence, includes a view of a number of wheelbarrows on the same side of the fence as the film crew [the compound included a barn where agricultural machinery and equipment were stored, goods and equipment could be purchase]. Penny Marshal shakes Fikret Alic's hand, and the camera pans up and down Alic, revealing the "chicken wire" which makes up the lower part of the fence, with the barbed wire only three strands at the top [the wire is old, some of the chicken wire is simply hung on the lower strand of barbed wire, which itself has been joined to the next strand in a haphazard way - the polls and the wire look old, not new as if "erected" for that day's arrivals, as claimed by the UN Tribunal's Christian Chartier]


Why was the wire taken down?

TD: I don't know. By the time of Penny Marshall's second visit it was gone. Perhaps they didn't want the same thing to happen again. Sections of the fence can still be seen on the west side of the compound, in the photos I took.

Q: What, condensed to about two sentences, is the allegation?

MH: ITN broadcast a picture interpreted as Nazi-style concentration camps. They should broadcast the rushes, and let the world judge for themselves.

I'd ask the prestigeous bodies, including the Royal Television Society, who gave the film awards, to reconsider what is and isn't good journalism in the war in Bosnia.

Q: Did the team make the images deliberately?

MH: I don't know - ask Penny Marshall.

Q: Does the blame lie with her, or her bosses?

MH: A journalist should give the whole truth. We are not against a journalist taking sides, but this cannot allow them to take liberties with the truth. The defining image of the Bosnian war was created with editing and camera angles.

[Four TV crews attended, including BBC, ZDF and RTL. One of the cameramen was overheard to say, while putting away his kit, "Good job - I like that"]

See the rest of reports on "ITN vs Truth" expose

Placed on this site on: Jan. 31, 1997