Journalists facing increasing aggression in Netherlands
The Netherlands is in sixth place in the world ranking for press freedom, but the safety of journalists is declining. Female journalists are less safe than their male colleagues, and journalists who write about organized crime are exposed to risks, according to an international report led by Free Press Unlimited.
Last year, the Dutch hotline PersVeilig received 272 reports of journalists being harassed, intimidated, or facing violence. In 2020, there were 121 reports. Some 80 percent of the about 700 Dutch journalists surveyed said they had experienced aggression or intimidation in 2020. The NOS decided to remove its logos from vans to protect employees. Crime journalist Peter R. de Vries was murdered. Like other European countries, demonstrations are increasingly unsafe for journalists to report on, and press freedom is under threat.
The safety of journalists continues to deteriorate. Therefore, the report from the European Commission makes recommendations on improving press safety for the Dutch authorities, law enforcement,s social media platforms, and the journalistic community. It also had discussions with journalists, editors-in-chief, policymakers, and the police.
The Netherlands needs to do more to prevent journalists from being harassed, for example, through education, the report suggests. The safety of female journalists should be better mapped. Female journalists face threats and intimidation online more often than their male counterparts.
Following the murder of Peter R. de Vries, the report advises investigating how journalists who are threatened by organized crime can obtain tailor-made security. The possibility of better protection for journalists covering high-profile criminal trials should also be explored.
Furthermore, the police must find a way to quickly recognize and identify journalists who report on, for example, a protest. A police press card can offer a solution here, but officers must then have the knowledge to recognize and verify it. The police also need to better understand the role of journalists during a demonstration in order to minimize interference in the journalistic process.
Thomas Bruning of the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ) is positive about the recommendations made in the report. He is also pleased that the authors emphasize the importance of the PersVeilig hotline. It is an initiative of the Association of Editors in Chief, the Public Prosecution Service (OM), the police, and the NVJ. Bruning sees a bright spot concerning PersVeilig. The hotline received 50 reports in the first quarter of 2022. "If this trend continues, we will receive fewer reports throughout 2022 than in 2021. Then there were 272 after all," said Bruning. "There are probably now fewer reports of threats and intimidation due to the expiry of the coronavirus measures and the many protests against it."
Reporting by ANP.