Half of journalists have been threatened with legal action
Half of journalists have at least once in their careers faced the threat of legal action as a result of a proposed publication, according to a survey of over 800 journalists carried out by Persveilig. Three-quarters of those surveyed have been working in journalism for more than ten years. A quarter of those journalists say they are wary about what they publish to avoid the risk of legal threat.
Six percent of those surveyed have modified a publication at least once because of the risk of legal action. Four percent have in some cases refrained from publishing. Journalists receive threats of legal action most often from a lawyer representing a private individual or a company. In smaller numbers, legal threats come from the government or a government lawyer.
"The results of the survey are shocking," says Peter ter Velde from PersVeilig. The survey was drawn up to gain insight "into the degree and seriousness of legal threats against journalists. So this type of threat also exists here, and not only in America, for example. We should also start thinking in the Netherlands about legislation to protect Dutch journalists against this type of threat."
A total of 39 chief editors also completed the survey, 36 of whom indicate that they sometimes have to deal with legal threats as a result of a publication. Persveilig believes this type of threat is "sporadic," happening between one and three times a year. Twelve chief editors indicate that legal threats sometimes lead to the modification or the shelving of an item.
With the exception of two, all of the chief editors surveyed indicate that they have their own lawyers or the option of hiring external lawyers to contest possible lawsuits. Two-thirds of the journalists surveyed feel that their employer has enough resources and/or knowledge if a publication were to lead to legal action.
A quarter of the surveyed journalists say they have no confidence in the Dutch legal system when it comes to protection against abusive lawsuits or criminal investigations following a publication. Six editors-in-chief also say they do not have confidence in the legal system.
Reporting by ANP