Utrecht hospital bans critical journalist
Reporter Ton van der Ham of television program Zembla is banned fro UMC Utrecht for a year, according to an official denial of entry by the hospital. The journalist will only be allowed on the hospital grounds if he needs urgent physical or psychological help, the document reads, NOS reports.
In the past Zembla broadcast multiple critical stories about the hospital, including about patient safety, the hospital's management, and the hospital withholding medial calamities from the Inspectorate.
The document banning Van der Ham from the hospital is dated 13 April 2018, according to NOS. On that day Van der Ham was arrested for trespassing at a lecture by terminally ill Adrienne Cullen, in which she told how UMC Utrecht tried to silence her after a serious medical error. With the lecture the hospital wanted to give openness about what happened.
Van der Ham was denied access to the lecture hall. The hospital claims that the journalist filmed in the hall, against the agreements made. Van der Ham denies this. Security guards put the journalist in a secluded room and he was accused of trespassing. The Public Prosecutor is still investigating these charges against Van der Ham.
A spokesperson for UMC Utrecht confirmed to NOS that Van der Ham is not allowed on the hospital's grounds until 13 April 2019. According to the spokesperson, the national hospital policy is to deny people who seriously violate the house rules access to the hospital for one year. This happens a few times per year, according to the hospital. UMC Utrecht insists that the entry ban has nothing to do with Zembla's work.
In addition to violating the house rules, UMC Utrecht also accuses Van der Ham of being aggressive to the hospital's spokesperson. "He started the conversation by already pointing a camera at me and filming me. In addition he presented himself very unpleasantly and aggressively", according to the spokesperson.
Van der Ham told NOS that the ban surprised him. "At first I thought it might be a joke. The charges were already a terrible way to make it impossible for a journalist to work", he said. The journalist denies being aggressive towards the spokesperson. According to him they both had a "sharp discussion".
The ban from entering the hospital was delivered to Van der Ham in a police envelope, something that amazed him, the journalist said to NOS. The Utrecht police confirmed this to the broadcaster. "Apparently an officer put it in an envelope, but that doesn't mean that the police have anything to do with it. That does not detract from the fact that it should not have happened."