Dutch judge: Confiscation of journalist equipment and imagery by police was justified

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At January 12 a Dutch judge decided the confiscation by Dutch police of equipment and imagery carried by Dutch journalists Michel Spekkers and Stefan Beck was justified. I reported  about the confiscation in this blogpost.

This is a part of the judgement.

Police confiscated at Schiphol airport the following:

  • Micro SD  memorycard
  • several harddisks
  • an Acer laptop
  • a professional JVC videocamera
  • Nokia mobile phone type 2630
  • audio recorder

Dutch Public Prosecution Service stated that Stefan Beck was on his way to customs with the bag of Spekkers. Dutch media concluded Spekkers/Beck tried to smuggle bones and pieces of wreckage without voluntarily handover. This is a conversation between Spekkers and Dutch police done while Spekkers was in Warsaw. It shows Spekkers wanted to hand over the bone.

Freelance journalist Spekkers and his compagnon Stefan Beck visited Eastern Ukraine. They made a documentary about the life of people. Spekkers went for a single day to the MH17 crash site. Beck did not join him on that day. Spekkers found many metal and plastic parts which belonged to MH17 in a shed and in fields. He also found pieces of bones which could be of human beings. He took some MH17 parts as well as a piece of a bone with him to Schiphol. With the MH17 lead investigator it was agreed to hand over the parts and bones at Schiphol. However, at Schiphol the police confiscated also equipement like laptop and media which contained non MH17 related video and photographs.

Context and background to Dutch freelance journalist finding of MH17 wreckage and possible human remains

Dutch society for journalists (NVJ) contacted the Dutch police the next day and objected to the confiscation. Police then agreed to seal the equipment and media. However Dutch police had the occasion to look into the video’s and photographs for several hours between confiscation on Saturday and sealing on Sunday. Some of the interviews were done with anonymous persons. There is a risk these interviews are now being watched by Ukraine Secret Service.

Both Dutch Police as wel as Dutch Prosecution Service are now allowed by the judge to investigate the equipment and imagery. Dutch judge also ordered that a part of the imagery needs to be deleted, a part is copied and a part is not used.

However the judge decided that Spekkers must attend during the inspection of his imagery. Also a third indepedant party must attend the inspection for monitoring purposes. I understand this needs to be a judge.

The imagery of the MH17 crashsite are allowed to be copied by the Dutch police in attendance of Spekkers.

The imagery that needs to be deleted are the recordings of Dutch Military Police and some MH17 investigators who met Spekkers at the gate. The name of the investgation is internally known as PRIMO. Spekkers and the NVJ do not agree with the deletion. They suggest that faces are blurred.

Besides the fact that MH17 investigator faces are made public, video and photography at Schiphol for other purpose than private use is not allowed without prior permission. This is likely another reason these images must be deleted.

It is not known to me why a mobile telephone, laptop and audio recorder are also not released by police.  The spokesman of the Dutch prosecution service Wim de Bruin did not answer questions why exactly equipment was confiscated and how it relates to the finding of wreckage and bones.

In the meanwhile the spokeswoman of Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova responded in her weekly briefing to the press to this affair.


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1 Comment on Dutch judge: Confiscation of journalist equipment and imagery by police was justified

  1. Perhaps, to introduce recordings of interviews with anonymous (not wishing to testify upon a trial) persons into evidence, these need to be afforded by the prosecution with the equipment they were recorded on, so that forensic examination could verify those are authentic. This may be the reason why in addition to copying of the recordings some of the confiscated equipment will be seized until the completion of proceedings.

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