Bosnian Camps: A Barbed Tale

By Alterman, Eric | The Nation, July 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

Bosnian Camps: A Barbed Tale

Alterman, Eric, The Nation

On August 5, 1992, Penny Marshall and cameraman Jeremy Irvin of ITN, Ian Williams of Britain's Channel 4 and Ed Vulliamy of The Guardian talked their way into Bosnian Serbain concentration camps at Omarska and Trnopolje. What they filmed and wrote created an international firestorm. Earlier that week, Newsday's Roy Gutman had reported the existence of the Omarska camp but had not been allowed into it. In Omarska, the journalists were soon hustled out by the camp's authorities after catching only a glimpse of a group of skeletal figures in a canteen. In Trnopolje, however, they were eyewitnesses to the workings of what appeared to be a gentler camp in full operation. The visit produced what would become perhaps the single representational image of the cruelty of Serbain "ethnic cleansing"--and emaciated prisoner named Fikret Alic reaching through barbed wire to shake hands. As Vulliamy later wrote, "With his rib-cage behind the barbed wire of Trnopolje, Fikret Alic had become the symbolic figure of the war, on every magazine cover and television screen in the world."

The journalists were careful to report what they saw and note what they had not seen as well. While they did describe harsh conditions and forcible detention, they dud not compare Trnopolje to a Nazi death camp. They did not even us the words "concentration camp." Vulliamy quoted Muslim refugees who said that they had not been the victims of force themselves. Marshall's reports showed the Serbian guards feeding Muslim prisoners and a small Muslim child who had come to the camp voluntarily. These descriptions were exaggerated in subsequent stories by other newspapers, based on the original reporting. (One British tabloid headlined the famous photo "Belsen '92.") Vulliamy later wrote that during the course of the fifty-four TV and radio interviews he gave immediately following his Guardian article," to my annoyance, I was obliged to spend more time emphasizing that Omarska was not Belsen or Auschwitz than detailing the abomination of what we had found." Still, the reporters were justly celebrated for their coverage. Marshall and Williams won a British Association of Film and Television Award (BAFTA) and the Royal Television Society Award; Vulliamy was voted Granada Foreign Correspondent of the year, won the Amnesty International Award for Journalism in the Interest of Human Rights and the James Cameron Award (the European Pulitzer) and was named International Reporter of the Year, a distinction he repeated this year.

Enter Thomas Deichmann, a self-described freelance journalist. Deichmann says he was asked to present the Hague War Crimes tribunal with a report on German media coverage of Dusko Tadic, the Bosnian Serb convicted of crimes against humanity, in whose defense Deichmann would testify. He was watching television tapes of the Trnopolje camp one night, he says, when his wife pointed out that the fence enclosing Alic was nailed from the inside, which he found curious. So he made a trip to Bosnia to have a look around. There, he tracked down a Serbian guard at the camp who insisted that he had been there to "protect the Muslims from Serbian extremists who wanted to take revenge." Trnopolje was not "a prison, and certainly not a "concentration camp,'" Deichmann concluded, "but a collection center for refugees, many of whom went there seeking safety and could leave again if they wished." In fact the refugees themselves has created the place, he said, "spontaneously." Moreover, there was no barbed-wire fence around Alic, he insisted, "The barbed wire in the picture is not around the Bosnian Muslims; it is around the cameraman and the journalists. It formed part of a broken-down barbed wire fenced encircling a small compound that was next to Trnopolje camp."

Deichmann was so excited by his scoop that he did not bother to call any of the journalists whose deception, he says, "fooled the world." Nor did he seek out any of the Bosnian Muslims who had lived through the Trnopolje experience. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Bosnian Camps: A Barbed Tale


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.