Negative publicity may seriously harm a reputation. The rules that a journalist has to follow have been set out in detail in the Guideline of the Press Council. Starting point is that journalists have to do their work with due care, that they are independent and are watchful of conflicts of interest, or even the semblance of a conflict of interest.
The principle of fair hearing and the extent to which the privacy may be affected are some of the topics that are discussed in the Guideline. Journalists should hear the other party if such party is disqualified by any publication. However, this does not apply for columns and reviews. Furthermore, a journalist must take care to ensure that the privacy of persons is not affected any more than necessary. Dutch celebrities should put up with more than what applies for Dutch people who are not generally known.
The main task of the Press Council is complaint handling. Before you can lodge a complaint with the Council, however, you have to present it to the relevant medium first. This must be done within three months after the journalistic action in question. The relevant medium, or its editor, will then have one month to handle the complaint to the satisfaction of the complaining party. If this does not happen, the complaint may be submitted to the Press Council, in writing or online, within no more than six months after the occurrence of the journalistic action to which the complaint relates.
After the journalist against whom the complaint was addressed has responded, a hearing is scheduled. During this oral hearing, both parties are given the opportunity to explain their positions, and the members of the Council may ask questions. Both parties may be assisted by a lawyer, who may speak at the hearing. After about eight weeks, the Council issues its decision, which is published on the Council’s website.