The NPO ‘regrets’ the situation regarding whistleblowers; Shula Rijxman may have acted in violation of the Code of Conduct

Media9 Jun ’22 16:00AuthorJulian Verbeek

Former NPO chairman Shula Rijxman may have acted in violation of the internal rules of conduct for NPO directors, as she did not mention a private relationship with OC&W Secretary General Marjan Hammersma. According to the current NPO chairman, Frederieke Leeflang, it is about “principle 2” in the code of conduct for NPO directors under the heading “to act with integrity”.

Leeflang says of his predecessor’s behavior at BNR: ‘A consultation with the compliance officer for advice would have made sense.’ The Danish Media Authority says it will ‘deepen’ into the case, because the supervision says so; “Any matter that may appear to be a conflict of interest must be disclosed.”

Koster and Van Dijk | This mouse has a tail

A whistleblower who in 2020 wanted to share information about the top of the NPO and possible ‘abuses’ that took place partly under the responsibility of Chairman of the Board Shula Rijxman, was referred by Media Minister Arie Slob to the top official in the ministry for a strictly confidential conversation ..

However, this top official, Secretary General Marjan Hammersma – as revealed last week in the BNR podcast Koster en van Dijk – has a close friendship with the then chairman Shula Rijxman from the NPO. For example, the two booked a hotel room for a private visit.

Also read | Top official puts whistleblower NPO in the cold, MPs want an explanation

The NPO regrets the state of affairs

In a written response to questions from BNR, NPO chairman Frederieke Leeflang now says: ‘NPO regrets the state of affairs for the whistleblower in question. Whistleblowers must always be able to tell their story and be able to assume confidentiality. ‘

Top official Marjan Hammersma has previously stated in a short statement to the media that she can properly separate private and business. Shula Rijxman – now councilor in Amsterdam on behalf of D66 – also stated that he saw no problem in the work and the private relationship with the senior official. However, the House of Representatives is not happy with this statement and a parliamentary debate on the issue is now planned with the support of the coalition parties VVD and CDA.

Also read | Pieter Omtzigt asks parliamentary questions about the Whistleblower NPO

Code of Conduct NPO

The successor to Shula Rijxman as chairman of the board of the NPO, Frederieke Leeflang, now refers to the internal code of conduct for NPO directors on behalf of the NPO. She tells BNR:

‘We at NPO assume that directors and all other broadcasters separate private and business in a professional manner in case of friendly relations. Also outside the workplace. This is also stated in our Code of Conduct for Public Broadcasting Integrity, Principle 2, act with integrity. ‘

The Code of Conduct stipulates that members of the NPO’s board of directors in certain cases of a possible ‘conflict of interest’ report to a special confidentiality adviser, the so-called compliance officer

Also read | The Secretary of State will ‘look internally’ at the whistleblower’s situation

Reporting a private relationship would have been “wise”

Leeflang confirms that Rijxman did not report the private relationship with the top official to the confidential adviser, adding that it would have been ‘wise’ to do so.

Leeflang: ‘Mrs Rijxman did not report the aforementioned relationship with the compliance officer. (…) The Public Broadcasting Integrity Code of Conduct describes what it means to act with integrity. Depending on the specific circumstances of a situation, a moment may arise where consultation with the compliance officer is desirable. The Code states: ‘By being open and accommodating, they prevent their personal interests from becoming entangled in the media organization’s.’ We do not know the exact circumstances of the situation. But a consultation with the compliance officer for advice would have made sense ‘, says Frederieke Leeflang.

The Danish Media Authority (CvdM), which has the task of supervising compliance with the NPO’s code of conduct, says: ‘Any matter that may contain a conflict of interest must be reported.’ The question of whether an investigation will be initiated is under consideration and ‘elaborated’ in the case. The Code of Conduct was introduced to the NPO in 2021 by Shula Rijxman herself.

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