Filming civil servants may cost you your welfare cheque

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The Hague residents who wish to go all Wikileaks on civil servants by filming their interrogators, risk losing their welfare benefits, Sargasso reports.

Blogger Dimitri Tokmetzis discovered this when he received the results of a freedom of information request about the so-called Haagse Pand Brigade, a unit of municipal civil servants that invades the homes of those vaguely suspected of such wrongdoings as welfare fraud, growing marijuana or illegal sub-letting.

A manual for the Brigade dictates:

Sometimes welfare recipients wish to make an audio or video recording of the visit. This recording could be against the will of team members, and could lead to publication that is against their will. This can have far-reaching personal consequences for the team members. This is not tolerable, and therefore we prescribe the following:

1) If a customer indicates that he wishes to record the visit, or if he is already in the process of recording the visit, the team members will indicate clearly that they do not give permission for the recording, and will stop the visit.

2) The team members will explain to the customer that their behaviour will be interpreted as refusing to cooperate in determining the right to welfare benefits (article 17 WWB), and that this can have consequences for their right to welfare. When the customer publishes his recordings, he will be reported to the police.

For the record, in the Netherlands you do generally not need permission to film someone, and so-called portrait rights (the limited right to object to publication of your portrait) are part of civil law, not of criminal law.

Tokmetzis adds that since the Brigade members are doing their work in public, they should expect and accept public scrutiny.

(Photo by FaceMePLS, some rights reserved)

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