Journalist could get community service for leaving fake bomb at military base

Prosecutors demanded on Monday that television presenter Alberto Stegeman serve 120 hours of community service and three years of probation for leaving a fake bomb in the mess hall of a military base. Stegeman, who presents the hidden camera journalism program Undercover in Nederland, is accused of eluding base guards and surveillance to leave the device as part of the program’s third report on problems affecting the Ministry of Defense.

Stegeman’s defense attorney denied that the item was meant to be considered as a fake bomb, saying instead that it was considered as such by base personnel. The attorney also said that Stegeman was acting as a journalist to expose a serious security issue facing the military.

His legal team pushed for acquittal of the charges on those grounds, said a Telegraaf reporter from the courtroom.

The alleged fake bomb was a briefcase containing a camera, piece of clay, several screws, Stegeman’s personal photos, and a stack of papers. Previously, the prosecutor stated that the case “had characteristics of an ‘Improvised Explosive Device.’” Following its discovery an explosives disposal unit investigated the briefcase and determined it was safe.

The presence of the screws, the prosecutor said, demonstrated that Stegeman wanted the device to look like an explosive device.

“The OM has not prosecuted for unauthorized access to the army site,” the prosecution said, adding that it served a journalistic purpose. “But leaving a ‘fake bomb’ crossed the boundaries of criminal law, and Stegeman cannot make a claim of journalistic exception.”

Stegeman said it was military personnel which tipped him off to the porous base security.

The court is expected to rule on March 9.