Call for uncensored broadcast of Van Gogh trial

AMSTERDAM — The trial of Mohammed B., the man accused of killing Theo van Gogh, should be broadcast uncensored on Dutch television, an academic has urged.

Professor Gerard Schuijt said privacy and visual identification legislation offers no legal impediment to broadcasting the entire trial.

He said the manner in which Van Gogh was killed and the fact his murder deeply shocked society is sufficient reason for B.’s trial to be broadcast uncensored.

The academic wrote in a Dutch lawyers magazine (Nederlands Juristenblad) that the decision could also be defended by the fact the murder seriously impacted the rule of law.

Currently, if a court hearing is broadcast on
television, a 15-minute delay is used to edit out privacy-sensitive material. This was the case during B.’s first preliminary hearing in January.


But if B. objects to the direct broadcast of his trial, Schuijt said he will have to lodge a formal protest with a civil court judge. The judge must then decide if the suspect’s interests outweigh the need for the dissemination of information.

Schuijt said the media responds too cautiously in such situations, pointing to the crimestopper show ‘Opsporing Verzocht’ which was the first to show a photo of Mohammed B. without a black rectangle over his eyes.

Some newspapers then decided to publish the photo without the black strip either, while others maintained the ‘code’ of not publishing the photos of suspects to protect their privacy.

Schuijt said the black strip across the eyes should not be used. He said there is sufficient legal argumentation to defend publishing a photo of a suspect whose crime deeply shocked society.


And publication would not be unjust for the suspect. On the other hand, it would breach the nation’s freedom of information principles to ban the publication of the photos.

B. will be placed on trial on 11 July for the shooting and stabbing of Van Gogh in Amsterdam last November. The killing was allegedly sparked by the filmmaker’s vocal criticism of the Islamic faith.

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May 6, 2005
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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014