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ITN wins libel damages from marxist magazine

LONDON, Mar 15, 2000 -- (Reuters) British TV news company ITN and two of its reporters won 375,000 pounds ($589,300) in libel damages from Living Marxism magazine on Tuesday, clearing their names over coverage of the Bosnian War.

The small left-wing publication was defiant after the judgment at London's High Court but said the damages, plus costs estimated at 300,000 pounds, would leave it bankrupt.

Living Marxism, now called LM, was ordered to pay 75,000 pounds to ITN and 150,000 pounds each to reporters Penny Marshall and Ian Williams for libelling them in a February 1997 article headlined "The picture that fooled the world".

At issue in the case was the article, as well as a press release and editorial, published in the wake of ITN's coverage which included footage of emaciated prisoners of war behind barbed wire in Bosnia in 1992.

Marshall, wiping tears from her eyes, said the judgment was "important for the people who were in the camp".

ITN editor-in-chief Richard Tait called the ruling "a good day for British journalism".

MAGAZINE EDITOR UNBOWED

Senior staff at the monthly magazine, which sells 10,000 to 15,000 copies and also publishes an on-line edition, said they would not be appealing the decision.

"We are bankrupt as a magazine and as individuals," publisher Helene Guldberg told reporters. "We always knew there was a risk in publishing a critical magazine like LM, but we will try to carry on in some way." Editor Mick Hume was unbowed. "We apologise for nothing," he told reporters.

Among the strongest evidence in ITN's favour was the testimony of a Bosnian Moslem doctor who told of atrocities at a Serb-run camp at Trnopolji in northern Bosnia.

"They took wooden legs from tables and beat people with them," Dr Idriz Merdzanic told the court. "We heard the screams and the beatings. Then they would bring some of those they beat up to us to help them, to dress their wounds."

He said some prisoners were taken away and never seen again.

Williams said the judgment vindicated what he and Marshall had seen in Bosnia.

"This has underlined what happened in those camps," he said. "What we have seen in this case is a sordid attempt to rewrite history."

ITN is owned equally by Reuters Group Plc, Carlton Communications Plc, Granada Group Plc, Daily Mail and General Trust Plc and United News and Media Plc.



Original article