Dutch broadcasting corporation PowNed acted unlawfully by interviewing Syrian asylum seeker Ahmed under false pretences and subsequently showing selective and misleading extracts of the interview on television. Lawyer Channa Samkalden initiated summary proceedings against Powned on behalf of Ahmed. The provisional relief judge of the district court of Amsterdam ordered Powned to request Google and Yahoo to remove the video fragments of the interview from the internet and to pay Ahmed a compensation of €2,500. According to the judge, that amount is the minimum that would be granted in regular court proceedings.
In the video report of the interview that Studio Powned aired, Ahmed was portrayed as a sex-hungry asylum seeker with little respect for Dutch liberal norms and values. The video, in which Ahmed is clearly recognisable, went viral and also emerged on many Arab websites. As a result, many of Ahmed’s friends and family turned their back on him.
In court, Channa Samkalden showed that the image painted in the video report is not consistent with the raw footage of the full interview, in which Ahmed presented a nuanced view and made positive remarks about the Netherlands. The judge agreed and opined that Ahmed gave his answers "following very explicit and targeted questions from the journalist on sexuality, through which she tried to provoke certain answers about "Western norms and values'", almost putting words into the mouths of the interviewees and not resting until she received an answer satisfactory to her. Therefore, according to the provisional relief judge, the qualification 'taken out of context' is certainly in order."
The judge moreover concluded that PowNed had unlawfully concealed the journalistic purpose of the interview: the reporter had in fact pretended to be a student, and had assured Ahmed that the recordings would be used solely for the purpose of her studies.
The judge thus concluded that Ahmed’s right to respect for his private life has been violated. Ahmed is happy and relieved that his honor can be restored with this verdict. He also hopes that this verdict will help him repair the damaged relationships with his family and friends.
Annex (in Dutch)
- Decision District Court of Amsterdam, ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2015:8976, 15 december 2015