MPs to create defense fund for journalists persecuted abroad

Ebru Umar (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Oscar)Ebru Umar (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Oscar)

Dutch parliamentarians are calling on the government to create a fund specifically intended to pay for the defense of Dutch journalists prosecuted abroad, in countries where freedom of press is under pressure.

This proposal, initiated by D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, is supported by a majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, NOS reports. Dutch journalists abroad can already count on consular assistance if they end up in trouble, but reimbursement of legal costs is not guaranteed.

The Netherlands is currently offering such assistance to Ebru Umar, who was arrested in Turkey last weekend for insulting president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter. Sjoerdsma and other MP's wants such assistance to become structurally available.

"Currently journalists can be litigated until they are financially broken by authoritarian regimes. That is why we call on Minister Bert Koenders (Foreign Affairs, ed) to ensure that they are are assisted financially by default", Sjoerdsma said to the broadcaster. "The case of Ebru Umar shows that press freedom can not be assumed in other countries. The Netherlands often offers good consular assistance, but we must also consider the costs that a trial entails."

According to Sjoerdsma, the fund will cost the government little money, and offer enormous help for journalists in trouble.

Sjoerdsma is in Istanbul today, on his way back to Amsterdam after a working visit to Jordan.