Reporters Without Borders is outraged by an Amsterdam court’s ruling today that the Associated Press violated the Dutch royal family’s privacy by distributing photos of them in an Argentina ski resort. The court ordered the news agency to pay 1,000 euros for each further publication of the photos up to a ceiling of 50,000 euros.
“We are shocked and disappointed by the court’s decision,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Presidents and monarchs all of the world who like to take great care of their image will now be able to refer to this decision to justify lawsuits against news media that dare to use photos that have not been cleared by their public relations departments.
“It is disgraceful that such an example has been given by a European Union country that is usually praised for its commitment to free expression,” the press freedom organisation continued.
“The existence of a ‘media code’ in the Netherlands governing relations between the press and the royal family is a violation of freedom of information that is unacceptable in the European Union. Some media may freely choose to stick to ‘approved’ coverage of the royal family, but other media have every right to be more critical in their coverage. The system established by this code reduces the media to PR agencies.
“We are furthermore surprised to see this code – which has no legal basis and only concerns the Dutch news media – being applied to photos that were taken outside the Netherlands. Does it mean that the sovereign or president of a foreign country who is photographed without permission while in Europe will be able to sue the news media for breaking the laws or codes of his own country?”
Reporters Without Borders added: “The royal family’s privacy must clearly be protected but, at the same time, the royal family has an interest in having the media to cover its activities. The photos that were taken in the ski resort did not in any way reflect badly on any of the royal family’s members and were very similar to the many official portraits of them with their children.”