Man arrested for hitting journalist with car at Urk church
The police arrested a 35-year-old man from Urk late on Sunday evening, on suspicion that he deliberately hit a journalist with his car at the Sion church in Urk on Sunday morning. Journalists were attacked at the Urk church and at a church in Krimpen aan den IJssel on Sunday, sparking outrage from parliamentarians. Both churches announced last week that they would no longer be enforcing the measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In Urk, a PowNed reporter was attacked and hit by a car at the Sion church. The police were looking for three suspects. One was arrested on Sunday evening, the other two were still at large. "Violence against journalists is unacceptable," a police spokesperson said to NU.nl. "We give this matter high priority."
Mark Baanders, the reporter in question, appeared on the Humberto talk show on Sunday evening. He said that the churchgoers in Urk were not happy to see him there and told him that he was not allowed to put Urk in a bad light in a "slightly intimidating tone". The PowNed camera man who accompanied him was attacked, and Baanders tried to help. "That made me the target," he said. About the people who attacked him, he said: "They have a certain belief and think that is more important than the corona measures."
In Krimpen aan den IJssel, a Rijnmond reporter was assaulted at the Mieras church. A suspect was arrested during the church service. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) said on Twitter that the man "will have to answer for the assault at a later time".
Many parliamentarians responded with outrage to the attacks on the reporters. "You keep your hands off of others," PvdA leader Lilianne Ploumen tweeted. "Let journalists do their job." She stressed that the coronavirus rules apply to everyone. "So stop physical church services."
"Hands off our press," SP leader Lilian Marijnissen tweeted. "Churches too have to just abide by the rules. Our healthcare, entrepreneurs and so many others are struggling. This is so anti-social."
Sidney Smeets, who will be sworn in as a D66 parliamentarian on Wednesday, called the attacks shocking. "Unacceptable and also a violation of the rule of law if journalists can no longer do their work without being assaulted and threatened," he said.
Elias van Belzen, leader of Christian party SGP in Nieuwkoop, had a different tune. "Stay away then, sensation seeker," he tweeted at the journalist who was attacked in Krimpen aan den IJssel.
Police chief Henk van Essen condemned the violence on talk show Buitenhof, calling the attacks on journalists "unacceptable". Police officers were present at both churches, and footage from the attacks showed that they did not prevent the attacks and acted reluctantly afterwards in both cases, according to NU.nl.
PowNed director Dominique Weesie was outraged about this, saying that such attacks require "harsh intervention", which was missing in both incidents. "And we blame the police for that."
The police were hesitant to act, because they did not want to escalate the incident, the municipality of Urk, the local police and public prosecutor said to NOS in a statement. "In order to prevent escalation, no immediate action was taken in these specific situations, but it was decided to restore peace on the spot as soon as possible."
Thomas Bruning of the Dutch association of journalists NVJ called it "deeply sad what happened here". He asked the church boards to take responsibility and condemn the violence by their congregation.