Bloem loses his court case against Today newspaper

PHILIPSBURG - Attorney at law Jairo Bloem has lost the injunction he filed against Today newspaper because he believed his honour and good reputation had been tarnished in two articles that were published on the Bobby Velasquez rape case.

Judge Diederik Thierry stated in Friday's ruling that Bloem's claim for rectification would mean an infringement of the European Treaty for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, unless the newspaper's statements had been against the law.

In the articles, published October 21 and 24, Today accused Bloem of having "meticulously fabricated" an extortion claim by the rape victim's family.

According to Bloem, who defended himself in court, the victim's mother had made an attempt to have the rape complaint bought off by payment of US $1.8 million. Bloem said his statement regarding the attempt to buy off the prosecution had been based on statements made by verifiable sources.

The Joint Court of Justice overruled the Court of First Instance on October 20 and found businessman Bobby Velasquez guilty of raping his 16-year-old great-niece on March 7, 2010. The Appeals Court sentenced the 66-year-old Bobby's Marina owner to 15 months, 12 of which were suspended, and three years' probation.
Velasquez will appeal this sentence at the High Court in The Hague.

In Today's article on Velasquez's conviction, which appeared October 21, it was stated that the court had not lent credibility to defence arguments about blackmail attempts by the girl's mother. The article stated Bloem had claimed that the mother had demanded US $1.8 million as the purchase price for three pieces of real estate to make the complaint go away.
"But the court did not even make this unsubstantiated claim part of its considerations," the newspaper wrote.

Bloem sent an e-mail that same day in which he expressed his objections to the article.
Today published a second article on October 24, on its front page, in which the victim's family presented its position on the alleged extortion claim under the headline "Attorney meticulously fabricated extortion claim."

Bloem stated these passages were incorrect and grievous. Moreover, the wording used by Today had deliberately tarnished his honour and good reputation, which was in violation of the caution required in civic society, Bloem said.

Today Management NV and Today Publishing NV, represented in court by attorney-at-law Michael Snijder and managing editor Hilbert Haar, rejected Bloem's claims, stating that the newspaper had acted conscientiously and had not deliberately used words to defame Bloem.
In this case two fundamental rights clashed: Today's right to freedom of the press and Bloem's right to protection of his honour and good reputation and respect for his personal privacy.

In ruling, the judge stated that a reporter had the right to interpret facts and to publish his conclusions. He said that in this case it could not be ascertained that the paper's reporting had been incorrect. The Court came to the conclusion that Today had given a balanced presentation of the lawyer's view and that of the victim's mother on the alleged extortion.

25 November 2011

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