Michael Born was journalist/producer who made exclusive reportages for German private channels that were a big success most of the time. One of these showed outlaws of the Kurdish PKK preparing bombs in their hideout in Turkey, which they were going to place in Turkish tourist resorts. But Turkish botanists, who carefully examined the video, came to the conclusion that the plants growing right outside of the Kurds' base, weren’t growing in Turkey, but in Greece! This revelation was the base of the Turkish accusations against Greece that is hosted Kurdish terrorists on its ground. Born had indeed filmed the reportage in Greece, with the only difference that it was fake: the Kurdish terrorists were Albanians who tried to make a living on a street outside Kalamata, and the bombs they prepared were made out of plasticine!
In other impressive reportages - like the one about the activities of the Ku Klux Clan in Germany - Born used actors and friends of his. His mother used to saw the costumes. In 1995 his fake reports were discovered and Born was sentenced to a 4 year imprisonment.
At his trial, where the most important German journalists testified, Born claimed that the channels he collaborated with knew his reportages were fake. George Ioannou, Born’s Greek cameraman, who was also convicted, confesses that the channels should have suspected the fraud, but none was interested in anything but the publicity. "I am in jail because of something that happens every day", Born tells Stelio Kouloglou.
The special report on TV and propaganda, broadcasted on the occasion of Reportage Without Frontiers' 10th birthday, presents a historic flashback on the distortion of images that finds itself at its peak when the public needs to be manipulated in order to support a war. At the beginning of the 20th century cinematographic cameras weighed about 750 kilos and it was hard to take them to the battlefields. Therefore, the images from the American-Spanish war were filmed in a washtub! And the Edison company used to color the news about the Boers war in South Africa with footage filmed in New Jersey, just outside New York.
When the First World War hits Europe in 1914, the demand for images rises in the UK: the British government asks the famous director David Griffith to direct a serious war. Griffith accepts on the condition that the government grants him 20-40 thousand soldiers who will obey him as if he were a general! The epic is filmed in Salisbury, South England and is presented in theatres as if it were news about real battles. Some British soldiers play the Germans and are of course defeated.
Long before television appeared, the falsification of images was used, especially by communist regimes in order to alter history: our race’s demon couldn’t miss out on the barrage of misinformation and fake images. Did CNN go to the Gulf War? Did Romanians put on a live revolution? Well then, why can’t we create revolt on live coverage? The chance didn’t take long to arrive, in 1997, with the events in Albania...