The Raad voor de Journalistiek (RvdJ – stands for Council for Journalism) is the independent body for self-regulation of the Flemish press in Belgium. It is a non-governmental organisation, which responds to questions and handles complaints from the public about the journalistic conduct of the press.
The RvdJ was formed in 2002 by the journalist unions and by publishers and media houses in Flanders. It is funded half by the publishers and the audiovisual media companies, and half by the journalist union (VVJ). VVJ receives a subsidy from the Flemish community for this purpose.
The Raad voor de Journalistiek has 18 members: 6 journalists, 6 representatives of the publishers and the media houses, and 6 members who are not involved in the media. Its current chairman is a judge at the Supreme Administrative Court in Belgium. In addition a secretary-general is appointed who is responsible for the running of the organisation.
The secretary-general is also the ombudsman of the RvdJ. He answers any questions from the public about press ethics. In his role as an ombudsman, the secretary-general mediates when a complaint is filed. He talks with the complainant and the involved journalist or media organisation to try to achieve an ‘out of council’ settlement. In most cases, a satisfactory settlement can be obtained.
If no settlement is possible, the complaint is brought before the Raad voor the Journalistiek by the secretary-general. The RvdJ takes a decision after having heard all parties. The decisions of the RvdJ are published on its website and in the magazine ‘De Journalist’. As part of its decision the RvdJ is authorised to ask the involved newspaper, or the television or radio programme to publish a rectification.
Filing a complaint with the Raad voor de Journalistiek is free of charge. Complaints must be in writing and can be filed by the concerned persons or organisations.
The Raad voor de Journalistiek aims to provide the public with a free and fast way of redressing possible mistakes by the media. The RvdJ also acts as a forum for discussion about the ethics of journalism. Its decisions are meant to underline the rules of good journalistic practice and to encourage ethical and professional standards of journalism. In 2010, the RvdJ has published a new code of practice, that you can find here (pdf).
For the French and German speaking press in Belgium, there is a similar council, the Conseil de déontologie journalistique. All information on the CDJ can be found on its website www.deontologiejournalistique.be.