Video intimidating a journalist a new low for far-right FvD, PM Rutte says
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that Forum voor Democratie reached a “new low” on Sunday by discrediting a journalist in a YouTube video. “In a democracy, journalists must be able to do their job without being discredited.”
He responded to the first episode of a YouTube series by FvD MP Gideon van Meijeren titled “Riooljournalistiek ontmaskerd,” which translates to “Sewer journalism exposed.” In the first episode, Van Meijeren attacked political reporter Merel Ek for her use of the word assassination. In an earlier question to the FvD MP, Ek explained the word, and the definition turned out to be incorrect. In a reaction on Twitter and in conversation with Van Meijeren, the journalist admitted this. She added that the point she wanted to make remains: “Words can be interpreted in several ways.
The SBS reporter called how Van Meijeren approached her, “not okay.” The MP came to her workspace in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, along with someone who was filming. At first, she refused to talk like that. When Van Meijeren said: “We’ve got the camera gone,” they had a conversation. But the camera was secretly still recording sound. “I’m always willing to talk, but the way he did this went too far,” Ek said in her response on Twitter.
Deputy Prime Minister Sigrid Kaag also does not have a good word for Van Meijeren’s actions. “Every time you think the bottom is in sight, it turns out to get worse and more dangerous. Disinformation and intimidation undermine society,” Kaag tweeted. “Like this absurd provocation. It transcends party politics. It affects our democracy.”
Minister Hugo de Jonge (Spatial Planning) tweeted: “Deliberately intimidating and undermining. Pure poison, this.” State Secretary Eric van der Burg (Asylum): “Disgusting, malicious, and life-threatening.”
Various MPs also condemned the video. “It has been a sad week with low point after low point. Now journalism has to pay the price,” GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver tweeted. The attacks on political reporter Ek and “with that journalism are beyond all bounds. Stop. Enough is enough.”
ChristenUnie party leader Gert-Jan Segers said that this is “threatening to the safety of journalists, to freedom of speech, to our democracy. Scary. Unacceptable.”
Thomas Bruning of the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ) called the way in which Van Meijeren approached Ek profoundly sad. “He also approaches her personally, which makes the impact even greater.” He called the action “alarming and terrible in all respects. Especially because he is a Member of Parliament and announced that this is the start of a series. He actually threatens: ‘journalists beware.’ These kinds of actions undermine the role of journalists.” The NVJ is investigating whether it can take legal action. He wants to discuss this with the editors-in-chief at SBS and Ek.
Editor-in-chief Marc Veeningen of Talpa Network, the parent company of SBS, agrees that the MP’s actions were unacceptable. “He did the interview in an area where filming is not allowed at all,” he added.
Veeningen is also critical of the fact that Van Meijeren recorded the conversation with Ek after telling the journalist that the camera was “gone.” Publishing secretly recorded conversations is only allowed if it reveals “a serious abuse,” according to the chief editor. “You may wonder if that is the case here.”
The precise meaning of words was also discussed because of earlier statements by FvD leader Thierry Baudet about “reptiles” that rule the world. He later said that he meant it metaphorically. The word “assassination” came up because SBS presenter Johan Derksen used it while talking about a much-discussed comment by Baudet. Derksen said afterward that he misspoke.
Baudet dismissed the criticism of Van Meijeren. In a tweet, he compared the “party cartel” with the “media cartel.” “The same people, the same ideas. Together they destroy the Netherlands.”
The FvD spokesperson said that there is currently “in fact, no control over the work of politicians, on the one hand, and journalism, on the other.” The FvD wants to correct this “imbalance,” according to him. In the coming period, Van Meijeren will “more often investigate with a camera to denounce one-sided reporting, demonization, and fake news, and to confront distributors with their actions,” the spokesperson said to ANP.
Reporting by ANP