In an article first published on the Emperor’s New Clothes in 2004, Jared Israel looks at one notorious episode of media deception from the 1990s. Despite a successful libel suit in 2000 the fact remains that British news outlet ITN produced images that grossly distorted reality and were widely used in a highly misleading way to promote “humanitarian” intervention in the Yugoslav war. We are publishing this here today because of how closely it seems to foreshadow the current, maybe even more deceptive, campaign to promote fresh and potentially apocalyptic western intervention in Syria. Compare the Guardian article discussed below with this and this and this appearing in the same publication in just the last two days.
On 6 August 1992, the international media broadcast pictures of a supposed Bosnian Serb death camp for Muslim prisoners of war. These pictures were taken from footage shot 5 August at a facility in the Bosnian town of Trnopolje (pronounced turn-OP-ul-yay). The film crew from the British news station, ITN, was led by reporter Penny Marshall, and accompanied by reporters Ian Williams and Ed Vulliamy.
Unfortunately for ITN, there is a hard record of what their film crew actually saw in Bosnia on 5 August 1992. That’s because Serbian Television (RTS) covered the visit. An RTS crew followed ITN as they inspected a detention center in the town of Omarska and a refugee center at Trnopolje (pronounced turn-OP-ul-yay.), where the supposed death camp footage was shot. So RTS filmed the same things ITN filmed and sometimes filmed the ITN reporters as well. Based on this RTS footage, Emperor’s Clothes produced a movie which proves that ITN did not film a death camp. Rather, pictures of the refuge center at Trnopolje were doctored and misrepresented to create the illusion of a concentration camp.
The evidence in our film ‘Judgment!’ (see also here) is cut and dry. But because most people have not seen the film, the media can continue to use the ITN pictures to convince the public that the Bosnian Serbs are “the new Nazis.”
The Guardian newspaper in the UK just published a piece on Omarska by Ed Vulliamy [We Can’t forget, September 1 2004]. Vulliamy is one of the reporters who went to Bosnia with ITN.
If you have seen ‘Judgment!‘ and you read this article by Vulliamy you will be aghast.
He simply lies.
I won’t try to answer all his lies; it would be a second career. I’ll just focus on two of the most striking. When a supposedly objective reporter is caught in two grotesque lies, why should one trust anything else he says?
Lie #1: The famous “death camp” picture
Here’s how the Guardian article begins:
‘We can’t forget’
Twelve years ago, Ed Vulliamy first revealed the horrors of Omarska, a Serbian concentration camp in Bosnia, to a stunned world. This summer the survivors returned to the place where they were tortured and raped, their friends and families murdered. He joined them
They walk in slow procession across a field of summer flowers, through the scent of mint into the nightmare of their memories. They arrive this time as survivors, not prisoners. Or else they come to pay homage to dead relatives at this accursed place: the now disused iron ore mine at Omarska, in northwest Bosnia. […] 
Notice that Vulliamy uses a melodramatic fictional style (“through the scent of mint into the nightmare of their memories”) to present his supposed news report. This is only fitting, since he is writing fiction.
Right off the bat, the photo above is not a picture of the detention center (not concentration camp) that was located at Omarska. It is from the footage famously shot at the refugee center in Trnopolje.
The ITN film crew went to both locations on 5 August 1992: first to Omarska, then to Trnopolje.
Vulliamy of course knows this. Did the Guardian insert the wrong picture by mistake? Or the wrong caption? You would think that if the Guardian made such an obvious mistake they would have changed it on their website immediately, but two days later it was still there. [Note from 12 June 2005: Nine months later, the caption still has the wrong location. — J.I.]
Perhaps the Guardian/Vulliamy deliberately misidentified the picture. Vulliamy’s article is intended to convince people that the Serbs ran a death camp at Omarska; perhaps none of ITN’s Omarska footage could be properly doctored to create the impression of a death camp. So to achieve maximum impact, the Guardian used one of the famous Trnopolje pictures — which millions have seen and which are fixed in people’s heads as ‘death camp photos’ — and just gave it a new location.
Why not? I mean, after all, a) almost nobody in the West knows Trnopolje from Omarska; indeed, almost nobody in the West knows either place from a carrot; and b) the whole death camp story is a pack of lies, so what’s one more? (In for a penny, in for a pound….)
[Note regarding caption: As noted above, until at least 12 June 2005 the Guardian website misidentified the Trnopolje picture as having been shot in Omarska. I checked again today (16 April 2006) and the picture is now described as “the concentration camp at Trnopolje.” So they finally got the location right; now they just need to fix the claim about “the concentration camp,” which, as I demonstrate below, is a lie. You can view Vulliamy’s article as originally published, with the (false) Omarska caption, at http://islamicawakening.com/viewnews.php?newsID=2711& Islamic Awakening.com likes the article very much, but in case they take it down, we have backed it up at
Pictures like this one [featured in above extract] have been used to demonize the Serbs for twelve years. The basis of its emotional impact is that a) it appears the men are penned in behind barbed wire and b) one of the men, Fikret Alic (pronounced Alich), is painfully thin, thus resembling a concentration camp victim. But if one examines the picture thoughtfully, one can see that the concentration camp claim makes no sense.
First, in the picture above, nobody besides Fikret Alic looks emaciated. For example, take the man in front and to the left of Fikret Alic, or the man to Alic’s right (sic, actually his left – OffG), who is holding the barbed wire (his name is Mehmet; more about him in a moment). Both look perfectly healthy. Were the Serbs feeding everyone except Fikret Alic?
Second, Alic is smiling. Why would the one man being starved in a concentration camp be smiling? And another man, between Alic and Mehmet and in back, is grinning. Joking in a death camp?
To make things clearer, let us examine another picture, posted below. This one was shot by the Serbian TV (RTS) film crew that was shooting alongside ITN. (Hence, although it is a picture of exactly the same scene, it is slightly different because it was shot from a different camera angle.)
Notice the following:
A) The fence supposedly around this supposed concentration camp is mostly made of chicken wire. (If you look carefully you can see the chicken wire in the Guardian photo, but it is fainter.) Chicken wire is not used to concentrate anybody but chickens, because chickens lack the sophistication to realize it lacks the barbs that make barbed wire hard to tear down or climb over. More important, chickens lack fingers. (It may be that the presence of fingers and the ability to distinguish barbed wire from chicken wire are what differentiate human beings from chickens.)
B) While Fikret Alic (the skinny fellow) is grinning, a man on the left, in front, wearing a black T-shirt, who is not visible in the ITN picture (because of the camera angle), is staring down and scowling.
C) Mehmet (front center, holding the wire) is frowning thoughtfully.
D) A short man in a blue shirt on the right is gesturing palm upwards towards Fikret Alic.
The RTS footage used in Judgment! includes sound, so it is clear when you see Judgment! that a little play has been enacted here. Not Vulliamy’s ‘Tales from a Serbian Death Camp.’ Rather, ‘Arrogant ITN Reporter Fishes for Usable Sound Bite and Manages to Offend Everyone.’
In Judgment!, shortly before this scene, we see Penny Marshall and her film crew setting up their cameras in an area used to store building materials. This area is surrounded by a flimsy fence; there are a few strands of barbed wire on top, but mostly it’s chicken wire. (We also see a little of the RTS film crew.)
Drawn by the unusual spectacle of two film crews (ITN and RTS) setting up shop in a fenced-in storage area in a refugee center, some refugees wander over. No officials are visible, and no guards.
Penny Marshall talks to the refugees. Because her crew is filming through the fence, ITN will be able to produce photos which create the illusion that the refugees are the ones enclosed by the fence.
In Judgment! you can hear Marshall talking to Mehmet, the man in overalls holding onto the fence. She presses him with loaded questions, trying to get him to say that this is a prison camp and he is being abused. He keeps saying, “No, no, it’s just a refugee center.”
“They treat you badly?” asks Marshall. Mehmet says, “No, I think they are kind. Very kind. But very hot.” (It’s August.)
Manifestly exasperated by her failure to get something usable from this stubborn fellow, Penny Marshall points to the man in the black shirt (front-left, looking down and scowling in the Judgment! picture) and asks, rather rudely, “Why is that man so thin?”
This embarrasses the fellow in black, and he scowls and lowers his eyes. Mehmet frowns at Marshall’s abrasive bad manners and tries to explain, “All people not the same.” A good point, but Marshall is not interested; she has a job to do.
At that moment, someone shoves Fikret Alic (the emaciated-looking man) and he staggers forward, giggling. The little guy in a blue shirt on the right motions, arm extended, palm up, a universal gesture, as if to say, “You want skinny? There’s skinny!” A moment after the tableau seen in the stills from the ITN and RTS footage, seen above, Fikret Alic leans amiably over the fence, chatting with Penny Marshall.
And that’s it. Of all the people that can be seen in this clip, the only one that looks very skinny is Fikret Alic and he’s laughing. Both he and Mehmet hang over the scraggly wire fence, relaxed. In other words, everyone is behaving precisely as they would not behave if they were inmates in a death camp. Except of course for Penny Marshall. She is quite tense. Not because she is in a death camp, but because she is not, and furthermore she couldn’t get a usable sound bite from Mehmet, and everybody is joking. She is under pressure to make this place look like a death camp and the suckers are refusing to behave like…suckers.
Once again, there are no guards. Think about it. Even without the information one can glean from Judgment!, does the concentration camp accusation make any sense?
In the summer of 1992, the US newspaper Newsday claimed the Serbs were running death camps. The Serbs vehemently denied this charge. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic invited ITN to film at Trnopolje and Omarska and see for themselves.
If Trnopolje were a concentration camp, would the Serbs have a) invited a TV news film crew from ITN, a British station that attacked the Serbs nightly, and b) let them wander about without supervision, chatting with whomever? Without so much as an armed guard to intimidate the prisoners? (If there were armed guards, why didn’t ITN film them? And why were the supposed inmates relaxed and cheerful?)
I have always found it amazing that people fell for the death camp line. Perhaps they did so because a) ITN edited the raw footage to create stills that looked as if they had been filmed in a death camp; we show how this was done in ‘Judgment!’; b) the pictures were broadcast on TV and shown in newspapers alongside genuine photos of World War II Nazi death camps; c) the pictures were consistent with other media coverage — slanderous coverage — of the Serbs; d) nobody wants to believe the media would lie about something so important.
But the media did lie. And while most of the media publicizes criticisms of Bush and Blair over their relatively small-time lies about Iraq*, none of the media has acknowledged the very big-time lies told about the Bosnian Serbs. 
Throughout the article Vulliamy uses his super-melodramatic fictional style to create an emotional mood. Arguing against this type of propaganda is like walking through mud: tedious and time consuming, and afterwards one wants a bath. So let me focus on one important paragraph and compare it to the hard evidence in Judgment!.
Lie #2: Terrified and skeletal in Omarska
Having lied not only about the content of the picture that the Guardian published, but even, apparently, its location, Vulliamy describes what he claims he saw on 5 August 1992 when he and the ITN film crew visited the detention center at Omarska. Here’s Vulliamy:
“We saw little that day, but enough: terrified men emerging from a hangar, in various states of decay – some skeletal, heads shaven – and drilled across a tarmac yard, under the watchful eye of a machine-gun post, into a canteen where they wolfed down watery bean stew like famished dogs, skin folded like parchment over their bones. “I do not want to tell any lies,” said one prisoner, “but I cannot tell the truth.” And it is strange – traumatic, indeed – to stand again in that now empty canteen; strange to walk that tarmac killing ground.”
This is beyond purple prose. Aside from that, notice first of all that this description bears zero resemblance to either the ITN picture, published by the Guardian, or the RTS picture, seen in Judgment!. Other than Alic, which of these men looks even remotely “skeletal”? Whose head is “shaven”? It is indicative of the power of media lies that the Guardian illustrates Vulliamy’s lies with the falsely labeled ITN picture, even though what one sees in the picture refutes Vulliamy’s lies!
RTS followed Marshall and Vulliamy and the ITN people around in Omarska, filming everything they did. Therefore we can prove that the supposed Omarska described in Vulliamy’s article is a fabrication.
We see in Judgment! that Vulliamy’s visit to Omarska began with a round table discussion with Mr. Simo Drljaca, in charge of the detention center. Drljaca explains that his goal is to ferret out and release prisoners who are not hard core rebels. (The prisoners were viewed as secessionist rebels against the established Yugoslav government. Which, in 1992, was a reasonable view.)
We see inside the detention center itself, which is in fact the modern administration building of a mining complex. Prisoners are sprawled about everywhere. None of them looks “wasted,” (Vulliamy’s word). They are all dressed in ordinary street clothes and there is no evidence of “skin folded like parchment over the bones.”
Next we go to the canteen, which looks exactly like a college cafeteria. Contrary to Vulliamy, nobody is wolfing down anything.
Perhaps Vulliamy’s most stunning lie is his description of how the men look as they come outside: “terrified men emerging from a hangar, in various states of decay – some skeletal, heads shaven – and drilled across a tarmac yard, under the watchful eye of a machine-gun post…”
Perhaps Vulliamy is describing an Omarska on another planet? If we are talking about the Omarska on planet earth, the one filmed by ITN and RTS and shown in Judgment! (but not in either of the pictures, above, which are from Trnopolje), then a) there is no evidence of a machine gun post, b) nobody has a shaven head; and c) the men look perfectly calm.
They stand around and chat with the ITN and RTS people; they complain about politicians who instigated the rebellion; RTS filmed that.
If Vulliamy is talking about Trnopolje and falsely labeling it Omarska (as the Guardian picture did) then we need not consult Judgment!; we need only look at the two pictures on this page, the one from the Guardian and the one from the RTS footage, taken from Judgment!.
Notice: lots of hair.
Notice: nobody but Fikret Alic is skinny; the Bosnian Serbs say he had childhood TB, but whatever the cause(s) of his skinny appearance, it is rather hard to believe he was the sole target of a starvation campaign. Anyway, as you can see if you look carefully at both the RTS and ITN photos, above, Fikret Alic is laughing. And he’s not the only one (look in the middle back part of the ITN photo.)
Do you see anybody in these pictures whom you would describe as “decayed”? What is Vulliamy smoking? What makes him think we want to share it?
If the Serbs had had anything to hide they of course would not have let ITN into Omarska. If they were stupid enough to let them in, they would have made sure guards were present at all times. But the RTS footage in Judgment! shows Penny Marshall and Vulliamy and the other ITN people wandering freely around a yard in Omarska, chatting with the prisoners with no evidence of guards. The prisoners act quite casual and speak freely.
When someone makes an accusation as serious as Vulliamy’s claim that this was a concentration camp, one’s tendency is to think, “There must be some truth to the charge: where there’s smoke there’s fire.” But Vulliamy has manufactured an Omarska that, as proven by the footage in Judgment!, is entirely different from the Omarska that the ITN people (and the film crew from RTS) actually saw on that one and only day that the ITN crew (including Vulliamy) saw it — August 5th.
It is recorded very clearly in Judgment!; and it doesn’t look anything like Vulliamy’s house of horrors.
In 1997, the ITN lies were exposed by Thomas Deichmann and the now-defunct British publication, Living Marxism (LM). ITN then sued LM and Deichmann for libel, and in 2000 they won. ITN claims this proves they were telling the truth. But this is not the case.
As many people have pointed out, British libel law puts the burden of proof on the accused. And as Emperor’s Clothes has pointed out, the LM people and Deichmann conducted their defense in a manner that virtually guaranteed they would lose. In a nutshell, they refused to challenge the ITN side’s claim that Trnopolje was a house of horrors.
It’s a terrible thing to say, but it’s the truth: Deichmann and LM threw the fight.
After the trial, I spoke to Mick Hume of LM on the phone, offering to organize a campaign and mount an appeal. He politely turned me down, saying it was time to move on. And move on he did; shortly after the trial, he was hired as a columnist at the London Times, which has been a font of misinformation about Yugoslavia.
For my analysis of the disastrous way (disastrous for the truth) that LM and Deichmann handled the ITN libel suit go here
FOOTNOTES & FURTHER READING
 The Guardian; Wednesday September 1, 2004; ‘We can’t forget’ by Ed Vulliamy, is posted at http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1294446,00.html
It can be viewed as originally published, with a caption misidentifying the location, at http://islamicawakening.com/viewnews.php?newsID=2711& That page is backed up at http://www.tenc.net/islamicawakening-vulliamy.htm
 Why do I say that, compared to the lies told about Yugoslavia, the Iraq lies were small-time? Because, in the case of Iraq, the media did not invent a whole new government and population. Saddam Hussein really did lead the Baath party dictatorship, and the Baath party really was modeled after the Nazis. It really did use the most vicious means to suppress democracy, and it really did foment Nazi-like hatred of Jews. (For more on this, see, “A Los Angeles Reader Asks: Are you For or Against Saddam Hussein? Are you For or Against the Proposed war?” at http://www.emperors-clothes.com/letters/shussein.htm ) But in the case of Yugoslavia, the media invented a fictitious Milosevic and a fictitious population. [OffG wouldn’t agree, from the standpoint of 2018, that the lies about Iraq were “relatively small-time” in their consequences even with these qualifications. ]
[Note added Sept. 5, 2008: For some time I have been quite critical of Milosevic, but I do not accept the myth that he was a war criminal, bent on conquest. Rather I have concluded (with considerable regret) that he was an opportunist who undermined first the Yugoslav and then the Serbian defense, both from physical attack and, especially during the fighting around the Krajina (bordering Croatia and Bosnia) and in Bosnia, from media lies, for example by making public attacks on Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, depicting him as a war monger because Karadzic resisted (perhaps because, given the overwhelming opposition of his support-base, he had to resist) Western deals that amounted to surrender. By adopting an ‘all-sides-in Bosnia-and-Croatia-are-equally-guilty’ stance, Milosevic played into the hands of the Guardian and other branches of the media misinformation machine. It is ironic that, given Milosevic’s attempts to appease the Vatican-European-U.S.-Iranian-and-Arab coalition trying to destroy Yugoslavia, the media paid him back by inventing an expansion-obsessed, racist Milosevic, especially when it came time to justify the massive 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia.
— J.I., Sept 5, 2008]
Emperor’s Clothes has published a slew of articles debunking the Media Milosevic Myth and other misinformation about Yugoslavia. You can access many such articles at http://emperors-clothes.com/yugo.htm
ADDITIONAL SUGGESTED READING FROM OffG
The Picture that Continues to Fool the World by David Peterson
Some Last Words on that Libel Trial – Mick Hume, former editor of Living Marxism, successfully sued by ITN over accusations of fraud, reflects on the case and the fact their central claim – that the ITN crew had deceptively filmed from inside a barbed wire fence – was never contested.
Atrocity, memory, photography: imaging the concentration camps of Bosnia – the case of ITN versus Living Marxism, Part 1 – a contrary view of the case that argues the camp in question was brutal and repressive notwithstanding the ITN deception.