For the TV program Stegeman op de Bres, Albert Stegeman helps people who are not being heard by official bodies. For the program, he also helped several people against the owners of construction company LVL Industry Holding BV. These owners, hereinafter referred to as LVL, did not agree that they would be broadcast. Due to the urgency, summary proceedings were held, in which the preliminary relief judge ruled on January 23, 2024.
This concerns several conflicts that have been lingering for years between LVL and customers and former employees. According to these parties, LVL has fallen short in the agreements regarding literal expensive construction work and wage payments. Because they were not heard, they approached Stegeman in February 2023 with their complaints about LVL. Stegeman then contacted LVL. He was not pleased with this and demanded that Noordkaap, the producer of Stegeman op de Bres, refrain from broadcasting. Important for what follows is that one of the owners of LVL was previously convicted of fraud, and that the company closed down in 2022.
Illegality of the broadcast
Is the broadcast unlawful? For this purpose, the preliminary relief judge weighed up the interest of LVL in protecting his privacy, honor and good name and the interest of Noordkaap in freedom of expression. Because the preliminary relief judge only has a fragment of the program to be broadcast, he must be careful with a complete ban on broadcasting. The considerations made by the preliminary relief judge are briefly discussed below.
Freedom of speech
With regard to freedom of expression, one must be able to express critical views on abuses that affect society. LVL says that this case does not affect society, but is a regular commercial dispute. However, that will not make much sense now that the company has been liquidated. Bankrupt or dissolved companies where victims are floundered are indeed a social problem, the judge ruled. Now that several people have reported to Noordkaap about LVL, it is important to warn the public, especially now that one of the owners of LVL has previously been convicted of fraud. The broadcast therefore contributes to the social debate.
What also counts is the seriousness of the abuse: it involves a total of several hundreds of thousands of euros and involves families living in mobile homes because they still do not have a home. There is also talk of unpaid wages and a salary increase that was never implemented but was promised.
It is also important to determine whether the suspicions at the time of publication were supported by factual material available at the time. In addition to the interviews with customers and former employees, Noordkaap also has construction agreements, invoices, payment methods, reports of declarations and WhatsApp conversations. LVL submits construction drawings, construction calculations, schedules and quotations as proof. Bottom line, LVL cannot explain where the hundreds of thousands of euros from customers went. In short: Noordkaap’s accusations are sufficiently supported by the facts and have not been refuted by LVL.
To assess whether the delivery is unlawful, does the judge also take into account how the suspicions are framed? This concerns the customers/’victims’ who tell their stories in the TV programme. The allegations are not presented as facts. LVL’s privacy will also be protected in the episode by shortening the surname to an initial, omitting the wife’s name, not mentioning age and place of residence, blurring the face and not mentioning the name of the previous criminal case .
How serious are the expected consequences for LVL? The preliminary relief judge assesses that LVL will not be immediately recognizable to the general public. If he is recognizable to the people around him, then the loss of good name is a foreseeable consequence of his own actions.
In summary, LVL has been proven wrong. The broadcast can now be seen.
[Fotocredits – © RAMBYUL – Adobe Stock]