Procedure to complain
The procedure to file a complaint is very accessible; the complainant just has to send his complaint in writing to the office of the Press Council. No charge is made. Legal representation is permitted, not compulsory. After a complaint is received the journalist or chief-editor involved will be asked to respond on the complaint in writing within three weeks. Then in most cases a public hearing will be arranged.
However, not everyone may complain. In principle only they, who are to be considered as directly involved in a case of journalistic (mal)practice, can complain. Furthermore, publications occasionally compromise collective interests rather than an individual interest. In that case, institutions for which defending the collective interest concerned is enshrined in their articles of association, are authorised to file a complaint. It will then be up to the Council's discretion to evaluate whether the institution lodging the complaint is admissible.
According to the regulations of the complaint procedure a complainant is obliged to send his complaint to the media outlet (i.e. preferably the editor-in-chief) first within three months after the publication/journalistic conduct. Further the regulations state that the media outlet has a maximum period of one month to settle the matter. When no settlement is reached the complainant may file the complaint to our Press Council within six months after the publication/journalistic conduct. In case a complainant files the complaint too late, the Press Council only will deal with the matter in the exceptional circumstance that the exceeding of the term reasonably cannot be hold against the complainant.
The Press Council is convinced that the best way of dealing with the complaints is to hear both parties, if possible. However, parties are not obliged to appear. In practice it occurs that both parties attend the hearing, that only the complainant or the journalist is present, or that both parties are absent. During the hearing both parties may explain their points of view. Further the hearing gives the Press Council the opportunity to ask questions and to explain the standards of journalistic ethics and the circumstances in which these standards must be realised.
The Press Council deals with an average of four to five complaints per hearing. At its sessions the chamber of the Press Council consists of at least three and not more than five members: a chairman and a proportional amount of journalist members and non-journalist members (1/1 or 2/2). If one of the members is suddenly unable to attend, the Press Council may deal with a case with four members if the parties present approve.
After the hearing the Press Council considers the case behind closed doors. The definite decision will be sent to both parties within eight weeks after the hearing. In its decision the Press Council asks the journalist or mass medium in question to publish the decision.
Please note that these are not the full regulations of our complaint procedure. For more information contact our secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org