The Netherlands Press Council - Summary annual report 2004 Drucken

The Netherlands Press Council (Raad voor de journalistiek)
Summary annual report 2004

The year 2004 was in various ways a successful year for the Netherlands Press Council.

The Press Council received the highest amount of complaints ever (89) and gave a record of decisions (100). Of its decisions 29 were upheld, 19 partially upheld and 45 rejected. 10 times the complainant was inadmissable. In two cases the Press Council withheld its decision. This sometimes happens when the parties involved do not agree on the facts and do not present enough material on which the Press Council can determine which party is right. The Press Council itself does not investigate the facts presented by the parties. The decisions concern 58 various media. Almost 40% of the decisions are related to regional newspapers, 16% to national newspapers. The consumer and news magazines and the national public broadcasting were both involved in 13 cases. Of the upheld or partially upheld decisions 60% was published by the involved media. In total 41 decisions were published by 28 media.

A large part of the decisions concern alleged infringements of privacy. Another significant part is related to publications that contained severe accusations referring to the complainant, who believed the accusations lacked valid foundations and that the journalist wrongfully did not hear his side.

One of the most interesting cases in 2004 concerned the complaint of a topman of the Department of Justice related to the prime time television news program of the public broadcasting (NOS-Journaal). In the program it was mentioned that complainant had, in conversations behind closed doors with two consumer magazines, admitted that he had sex with young men and had not always asked their ages. The information was presented as conclusive and the report strongly suggested that the topman had sex with minors, at least had accepted the possibility thereof. The defenders had obtained their information from an anonymous source and had verified the information by another anonymous source. According to the Press Council the severe accusations had no valid foundation in reliable sources. Besides, the comment of the counsel of the topman was asked but not incorporated in the report. The Press Council concluded that the defenders had passed the limits of good journalistic practice. In accordance with the request of the Press Council the defenders published the decision in the relevant program. For the first time in the history of the Press Council its decision was published in prime time television news.

Not only the overview of data shows the growing significance of the Press Council.

In the past couple of years some governmental reports have been published concerning the accountability of the media. The government is of the opinion that in this respect a reinforced Press Council can play an important role. However, the costs for this reinforcement are for the account of the industry. In this connection the board of our foundation had success by finding funds to further improve the working methods of the Press Council. The public broadcasting appeared to be willing to bear the extra costs to reinforce the office of the Press Council and to hire freelance clerks, at least for the last few months of 2004 and for 2005.

Further the Press Council is enlarged in order to deploy enough presidents and members for a larger amount of hearings. The number of presidents is increased from 3 to 4, the number of members from 20 to 26.

In 2004 the secretary's office put a lot of energy in improving the website of the Press Council. The website is more accessible than before and it is a lot easier to consult the decisions of the Press Council.