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The Netherlands has witnessed unrest over the past few nights
Image: ROB ENGELAAR/ANP/imago images
Press Freedom

Dutch journalists face hostile environment

January 28, 2021

Dutch Justice Minister condemned the violence against journalists during last days curfew riots in the Netherlands. DW spoke to public broadcaster NOS.


Initially, the anti-curfew protests in the Netherlands had begun peacefully, but escalated as groups of protesters clashed with the police, threw fireworks and vandalized buildings and shops. The country’s current nightly curfew due to the coronavirus pandemic is the first one since World War II. 

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus condemned the violence that was also directed at journalists, stating that "this is simply criminal behavior; people who deliberately target police, riot police, journalists and other aid workers." 
DW spoke with Onno Duyvené de Wit, Communications Advisor News and Events at Dutch public broadcaster NOS, who says that the Netherlands' current fifth place on RSF's World Press Freedom Index is ‘under pressure’.

Niederlande Proteste in Amsterdam gegen Corona-Maßnahmen
Police, aid workers and journalists were deliberately attacked in latest curfew protests according to the Dutch Justice MinisterImage: ROBIN UTRECHT/picture alliance

DW: We have witnessed violent anti-curfew protests in recent days where journalists were also attacked. What did your colleagues experience?

Onno Duyvené de Wit (NOS): Generally, our reporters can carry out their work without any hindrance. However, at demonstrations by certain pressure groups or at some violent anti-curfew protests our reporters, cameramen and security personnel suffer verbal abuse, some protesters also try to intimidate our colleagues e.g. by filming them with their smartphones. Interviews are being hindered by protesters. And last Sunday a security guard who accompanied a cameraman of ours was attacked with pepper spray. 

The other day NOS Editor in chief Marcel Gelauff said more money needs to be spent on security measures when sending out reporters. What are the security measures taken by NOS when sending out reporters?

We carry out risk assessments before sending reporters out into the field. If we determine that there are indeed risks involved, we send security guards along with our reporters.

On a broader level, we encourage our people to report any incident to the editorial board that on some occasions presses charges against individuals who make physical or viable verbal threats. Also, we conduct high-level talks with members of the security establishment such as the Justice Minister in order to address the problem. In some very specific instances (e.g. after the decision to remove our logos from the satellite vehicles) we try to raise awareness with the general public by appearing in television talk shows or doing interviews in national publications.
When it comes to journalists being targeted for their work, are journalists from state-funded media treated differently than journalists from private media?

Niederlande Fernsehsender NOS
Public broadcaster NOS removed logos from its vehicles in order to protect reportersImage: Niels Wenstedt/PRO SHOTS/picture-alliance

That is indeed our impression. Some people apparently do not know the difference between state media and state-funded (i.e. public) media and think that the NOS is no more than a mouthpiece of the government. The fact that we have complete editorial freedom and that for example, cabinet ministers have had to resign because of our reporting does not convince them.

Threats against journalists, the removal of NOS logos from company cars and more attacks against your journalists – is press freedom deteriorating in The Netherlands?

"Deteriorating" is too strong a term. One should bear in mind that The Netherlands last year was ranked 5th in the list of nations worldwide with most press freedom. We would prefer to state that this 5th place is under pressure.  

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