Every day, businesses and individuals are publicly accused of all kinds of criminal acts, such as fraud. Reputations can easily be ruined. The activities of the media lawyers at AMS Advocaten in Amsterdam include responding to unlawful publications on the internet and in newspapers. If a publication is unlawful, a lawyer can demand rectification and/or removal of the article in question in interlocutory proceedings. In addition, there is an obligation to reimburse the victim for the damage caused. That damage may consist, for example, of reputational damage and, in the case of companies, lost turnover. It is also possible to lodge a complaint for slander, libel or defamation of character.
When is a statement unlawful?
Expressing criticism is permitted, even criticism of a very harsh nature. That falls under freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Constitution. But there are limits. Statements must not be unlawful. The question of whether a statement is unlawful needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. In cases like these, the judge weighs up the right to free expression against the right to the protection of a party’s honour and good name.
Demanding rectification in interlocutory proceedings
If an accusation is unlawful, the aggrieved party can demand rectification in interlocutory proceedings through a lawyer. The court will then examine whether there is sufficient support for the accusation in the evidence available at the time of the statement. There are plenty of ins and outs involved in demanding the appropriate rectification, certainly if the rectification is to take place on the internet. For example, the text itself needs to be carefully considered, but also the position where the rectification is to be placed and how long the rectification needs to remain in place. Matters such as the font and font size of the rectification also need to be considered.
Lodging a complaint for slander and defamation of character
Alongside the civil unlawfulness and the action you can take in that regard, a criminal act may also have been committed for which you can also lodge a complaint. This will primarily involve slander, libel or defamation of character.
- Slander (article 261 of the Penal Code) is deliberately harming (damaging) a person’s honour or good name by alleging a particular fact, with the manifest purpose of making it public.
- Libel is slander by means of distributed or published writings.
- Defamation of character is slander or libel involving information, which the perpetrator knows to be in contravention of the truth.
Reputational damage: compensation
In law, anyone whose honour or good name have been harmed is entitled to compensation. This immaterial form of compensation is also known as damages. This applies in cases of reputational damage. The amount of the immaterial damage will need to be estimated and the judge has great latitude in setting a figure. In practice, judges often follow the damages guide, which contains many examples of rulings on reputational damage and damages.
Need a media lawyer?
The media lawyers at AMS Advocaten have extensive experience with cases about unlawful publication, rectification and compensation. The lawyers at AMS are closely involved in their clients’ cases, work with short lines of communication and offer competitive rates. Are you looking for a lawyer specialising in media law? Feel free to contact AMS Advocaten with no obligation.