2 min reading time

How seeking publicity can work against you in court


In brief

  • In September, summary proceedings were filed in which Jeugdhulp Friesland (the local child protection service) was summoned in connection with the planned publication of an anonymised research report about a minor girl, whose parents demanded a ban on publication.
  • The verdict underscores that seeking publicity can work against you in court, as the judge noted that previous media attention for the girl and her treatment could lead to certain passages in the report still being associated with her.
  • The parents had sought publicity themselves and shared information about their daughter with the media, which the judge considered a risk for tracing information from the report back to the daughter. The judge ruled that the freedom of expression of Jeugdhulp Friesland outweighed the privacy interests of the daughter and her parents, and denied the request for a ban on publication.

At the end of September, rather special summary proceedings were brought before the preliminary relief judge in Leeuwarden, in which Jeugdhulp Friesland had to justify the intended publication of a research report about a minor girl. Her parents demanded a ban on that report being published. Media lawyer Thomas van Vugt discusses the verdict.

Anonymised research report

During the hearing, it quickly became clear that the research report would be anonymised before being published. Many parts of the report have also been redacted, leading the judge to assume that there are no (direct) references to the daughter in the report.

Publicity as a double-edged sword

Above all, the verdict shows that seeking publicity can sometimes work against you in court. In the decision, the preliminary relief judge notes that if certain passages in the report can still be linked to the girl in question by third parties, it is not because of what is stated in the research report but due to previous publications in the media about the daughter and her treatment.

Risk of self-sought publicity

The parents sought that publicity themselves and also shared information with the press about what happened to their daughter during the treatment, according to the judge. The judge rules that while the parents were indeed free to do so, they thereby accepted the risk that third parties might trace certain information in the research report back to their daughter.

The judge subtly adds that it is also not clear to him why and how the parents have the right to make their views and experiences public, but Jeugdhulp Friesland does not have the right to do the same with a research report (prepared by an independent research institute and anonymised).

Balance between freedom of expression and privacy interests

The preliminary relief judge therefore concludes that the freedom of expression of Jeugdhulp Friesland outweighs the privacy interests of the daughter and her parents in a ban on publication. The request was therefore denied.

Thomas van Vugt

Thomas van Vugt

Thomas specializes in contract law and media law cases. He advises, litigates and negotiates. Thomas' work style is characterised by a strong commitment to his clients, the ability to act quickly and decisively and cut through red tape. He speaks fluent English and regularly advises international clients. View his track record here. Follow Thomas on LinkedIn.

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