Interview with Mick Hume, British author and editor
By Milenko Srećković (Pokret za slobodu)
In 1997 British magazine “LM” published a translation of the article “The picture that fooled the world” by German journalist Thomas Deichmann, where the way in which big media corporation ITN reported on war in Bosnia in 1992 was called into question. In his article Deichmann concluded that ITN’s video record, where strikingly skinny Bosnian Muslim Fikret Alić stands behind barbed wire, was intentionally edited to remind the viewers of Nazi concentration camp. The picture of this malnourished man behind the wire went around the world, was published on the front pages of many world journals and, according to Deichmann, served to equate Serbs with Nazis in the mind of the readers, and to present the entire conflict in paradigmatic, black-and-white manner. Deichmann, by the way, had for the first time opportunity to see the whole unedited ITN’s recording in Hague, where he stayed in 1994 as expert witness before the war crimes tribunal.
ITN corporation denied Deichmann’s claim that it “intentionally” deceived the public by its way of reporting and filed a lawsuit for defamation against “LM” magazine. Since the magazine, not being able to prove the existence of “intent”, lost the trial, the amount of fine it had to pay led to its shutdown. Noam Chomsky has repeatedly pointed out this case as an example of the violation of the freedom of speech and characterized British legislation on defamation as “grotesque” and “absolutely horrible”.
After the shutdown of “LM”, its chief editor Mick Hume became the editor of internet magazine “Spiked“. His last book, “There Is No Such Thing As a Free Press – and we need one more than ever”, was praised by Daniel Finkelstein, the executive editor of “The Times”, as “a masterclass in the writing of polemic”. We spoke with Hume about how he looks at this case today.
Milenko Srećković: How did you feel after losing a libel suit brought by ITN and what that made you think about the freedom of expression in your country?
Mick Hume: I was not surprised that we lost. We expected it, although our lawyer won every argument in court, because the UK libel laws are biased against defendants and freedom of expression. As I said to the media on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice after the trial, “The only thing this case has proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is that the libel laws are a menace to free speech and a disgrace to democracy.”
– What was the reaction of the public on the outcome of this court procedure.
We had a lot of support from people who understood and supported the two key principles we were fighting for. First, we were taking a stand for the historic right to freedom of expression. And second, we were challenging the idiotic idea that the Bosnian civil war could be compared to the Nazi Holocaust. That was a dangerous notion which could only diminish the horrors of the past, and distort the conflicts of the present. Without the support of those who sided with LM, we could not have fought the case at all. But we were also bitterly opposed by other liberal intellectuals and journalists, who could not comprehend that we opposed their moral crusade to brand the Serbs as “the new Nazis”. They still cannot understand it and still despise our stand – even many of those who campaign to reform the UK libel laws will say it was right to sue LM! So our case was an important moment in dividing opinion.
>> BLOG KOSMET VIA KOSMOS: