Raad voor de Journalistiek, Netherlands Press Council
F. Van Exter ( president )
Raad voor de Journalistiek
t.a.v. de secretaris
1100 AA Amsterdam
Tel: 020 – 31 23 930
Fax: 020 – 31 23 934
1101 CC Amsterdam
At present the Netherlands Press Council is established and maintained by a foundation called Stichting Raad voor de Journalistiek. The foundation includes:
- the Netherlands Union of Journalists (Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten)
- the Netherlands Society of Chief-Editors (Nederlands Genootschap van Hoofdredacteuren)
- several coordinating organisations of printed press
- coordinating organisations of public and commercial broadcasting
The foundation's board appoints the members, chairmen and secretaries of the Press Council. The Press Council consists of four (vice) chairmen, ten member-journalists and ten non-journalist members. The chairman is a high-profile journalist, his substitutes are members of the judiciary. The member-journalists work in newsrooms or as editors and freelancers. And non-journalist members have different positions in the foundation. The secretary and acting secretary must work as lawyers.
Further the board of the foundation determines the regulations of the Press Council.
Since 1993 there has been the possibility of mediation between complainant and journalist.From the same year the Press Council can give a statement of opinion about a case of principal interest on its own initiative. Up till now this has happened four times: about the use of stolen information by journalists (RvdJ 1995/32), about the use of hidden camera's and microphone's (RvdJ 1996/44), about embargo (RvdJ 2003/50) and about the air crash in Tripoli (RvdJ 2010/35).
Since January 2003 a complainant could apply for an accelerated treatment of his complaint, but this has now been abolished.
In February 2005 a term of six months was implemented, in which a complaint must be filed. In order to shorten its procedure during several years the Press Council hired freelance clerks, all working at the Council of State, to formulate draft decisions.
Furthermore the Press Council has looked into the possibilities and ways to play a more active role in the public debate on journalistic practice. The Press Council has also worked on a guidebook for journalistic behaviour and standards of good journalistic practice. The council has also become more effective at mediation and responding to complaints.
In 2012 the council faced some harsh criticism and drew up a committee to propose new suggestions. These included:
The chairman of the Press Council must be a high profile journalist and no longer a lawyer. This chairman has an important role in represengint the council to the public (as of March 2013).
As of Novemeber 1, 2013:
- a complainant is obliged to file his complaints to the journalist/editor first;
- the so-called accelerated procedure and mediation has been abolished.
- The council will no longer mediate complaints against journlasts who do not subscribe to the council, except in extenuating circumstances.
The origin of the Press council in The Netherlands leads back to 1948. After the second world war had ended and the press in The Netherlands had been rebuilt, journalists' organisations looked for means to safeguard good journalistic practice. The main point was the concern about the standing of the profession.
The Netherlands Union of Journalists founded in 1948 the 'Raad van Tucht" which functioned as a kind of Press Council until 1960. The competence of this Raad van Tucht extended only to members of the Netherlands Union of Journalists. ??In case of bad professional conduct the Raad van Tucht could impose one of the following sanctions: warning, rebuke, suspension, or expulsion as member of this Union. During the period of its functioning the Raad van Tucht came to a judgement in 15 cases.
An incident in Dutch journalism led to the institution of the present Press Council, de "Raad voor de Journalistiek". ??The incident was this: a journalist of a daily paper had published an article about a government statement, presented to the press under embargo. The journalist did not accept the embargo, because he already knew the contents of this statement from his own sources.
In reaction to this event the Dutch government excluded this journalist for one year from all information on the part of the government. The Prime Minister declared, when asked for his opinion in Parliament, that the government could not accept the Raad van Tucht judging this question, because it was only competent to judge the members of the Dutch Union of Journalists. So, if a journalist ended his membership, the Raad van Tucht lost its competence to examine the complaint and to make a statement.
In reaction to this attitude of the government the Dutch Union of Journalists re-formed the Raad van Tucht into the Raad voor de Journalistiek in 1960. ??This Press Council was extended its competence to the journalistic practice of journalists that were not organised (in the Dutch Union of Journalists). ??Worth mentioning in this context is that in 1948 in the first collective labour agreement for daily newspaper journalists a closed-shop article was agreed upon by the parties. This closed-shop article however was not approved by the Department of Social Affairs and therefore never became valid. If this had not happened, all 'professional' journalists could have been judged by the Raad van Tucht.
Also worth mentioning is that in 1949 the government proposed a bill regulating the registration and professional assessment of all journalists. This bill also considered a self-discipline system based on public law. Great discontent and criticism on the part of the union finally led to the withdrawal of this bill in 1960.
The constitution of the Raad voor de Journalistiek ??The Foundation Raad voor de Journalistiek, which consists of representatives of printed and audiovisual media companies, set up the Netherlands Press Council (NPC). The members, the chairman and the secretary are appointed by the board of the Foundation. ??The NPC consists of 10 journalist-members and 10 non-media members. They all do this work in their spare time and beside their normal jobs.
The chairman and his substitutes are members of the judiciary. The secretary must be a lawyer. The appointments are for four years and can be extended for another four years.
The NPC is charged with the examination of complaints against violations of good journalistic practice. But not every complaint leads to such an examination. ??Not every one may complain. Only they who are considered as directly involved in a case of journalistic (mal)practice, can complain. The complainants are mostly persons or organisations about whom has been published in a false, incorrect or grievous way. ??The complaint must concern the journalistic practice of a professional journalist. This means that the complaint must be directed to a journalist, editor or editor in chief who draws more than 50% of his/her income from the practice of journalism.
A complaint must be sent in writing to the office of the NPC. The chairman, assisted by the secretary, makes a preliminary examination of the complaint. The journalist, editor or editor in chief concerned will be asked to react on the complaint. If necessary the comment of the complainant on the reaction of the journalist will be asked, and the journalist in turn can react on that. The chairman decides if and how the complaint is to be treated. In most cases he decides to arrange a hearing. Only if the complaint does not come from a directly concerned complainant or if the question is very clear or of no importance, will there be no hearing.
The NPC is convinced that the best way of dealing with the complaints is to hear both parties if possible. The hearing also gives the opportunity to explain to the plaintiff the standards of journalistic ethics and the circumstances in which these standards must be applied. ??The gathered written material will be sent to the four members (2 journalists and 2 non-journalists) and the chairman who will hear both parties and judge the case.
The NPC has no other possibilities than to give an opinion on a complaint about journalistic practice. This opinion will be published in the professional magazine for journalists and also sent to the national news agency (ANP) and to the media. The paper, magazine or broadcasting program concerned is requested to publish the judgement. The number of them which actually publish it is growing. ??The subject of the judgement is the journalist, editor or chief-editor and not the newspaper. That means that the working methods, activities and the way of publishing of the journalist himself and eventually the conduct in publishing of the chief editor are subject to a statement of opinion by the NPC.
The maintaining of the standard of good taste or general complaints against the press cannot be treated by the NPC. The complaint always must be in regard of a specific publication or a specific series of articles. The competence of the NPC also includes television and radio programs insomuch as journalistic practice is concerned.
In the past years the work of the NPC has increased. Probably not because journalistic malpractice increased, but because more complainants find their way to the Press Council. ??In 1993 improvements have been made to the working method of the NPC. There is now also the possibility of mediation between complainant and journalist. Another important change is, that the NPC can give a statement of opinion about a case of major interest. This has already happened twice: about the use of stolen information by journalists (1995) and about the use of hidden cameras and microphones (1996).
Last Update - Aug 2006