Populist public broadcaster Powned was within its rights to pretend its reporter was a school pupil when she interviewed a Syrian refugee about sex and homosexuality last year, appeal court judges said in Amsterdam on Tuesday.
The programme portrayed the refugee, named only as Ahmed, as sex-mad and anti-gay and caused an outcry in the Netherlands and on social media world wide when the interview was broadcast.
Ahmed was shown to make a throat-cutting gesture when asked for his views on homosexuality. However, he then went on to say that was his personal opinion and he would respect Dutch laws. This was not included in the item. The item also focused on Ahmed talking about his swollen testicles because of a lack of sex.
The appeal court ruled that although the journalist had gone against journalistic principles by not saying who she was, this was justified because the refugee settlement agency COA had consistently refused Powned permission to film in the centre.
‘There was a major public debate ongoing about the mass stream of refugees to the Netherlands,’ the court said. The refusal of the COA to allow Powned access was infringing on journalists’ rights to gather information and so justified the deception, the ruling said.
The court also said the inclusion of the section on homosexuality was justified because it contributed to the debate about the lack of acceptance of gayness among some refugees.
However, the only purpose of the section about Ahmed’s testicles was to make people laugh, and should not have been used, the judges said, upholding his €2,500 compensation award.
Powned has since removed the item from its website.