Netherlands: journalists' safety increasingly under threat

  • 27 Jan 2021

Reporters and film crews became targets during demonstrations against a 9pm curfew aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Several journalists were physically attacked during riots that took place in several cities in the Netherlands on 23 January. They following the government's decision to impose a 9pm curfew aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

The International and European Federation of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) joined their affiliate in the Netherlands, the NVJ, in condemning the attacks and expressing alarm over the escalation of violence against media professionals since last year.

The unrest started last weekend during protests against the curfew that came into force on Saturday. At least seven cases of violence against journalists and media workers have occurred in the last four days in Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Enschede, Helmond, Tilburg, The Hague and Haarlem. Journalists were insulted, assaulted and pelted with stones.

A man from Almere was arrested for posting a video threatening journalists who had reported on the recent riot on Museumplein in Amsterdam the week before. He advised public broadcaster NOS employees and journalists to flee the Netherlands because something will be done to them. On Saturday, a security guard who accompanied a NOS TV crew was pepper-sprayed in the face by rioters.

Thomas Bruning, general secretary of the Netherlands Association of Journalists (NVJ), called on politicians to reiterate the important role of journalism.

"This is shocking. Aggression towards journalists is increasing from weekly to daily frequency, it is not normal for journalists to go out with security guards."

He said he would be consulting editors to ensure journalists can continue to do their work safely.

Tony Sheldon, NUJ Netherlands branch chair, said:

"Apparently, press agencies were removing personal bylines from photographs of the riots so as to protect photographers and their families from threats. This intolerable situation cannot go unchallenged. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Dutch trade union colleagues. It is shocking that, even in The Netherlands with its centuries-old traditions of liberty, journalists are under attack. We will defend them."

Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, said:

"Journalists' safety is not guaranteed in the Netherlands at the moment and steps must be taken to resolve this immediately in the name of press freedom and journalists ' right to work without fear or threats."

Ricardo Gutiérrez, EFJ General Secretary, called on the authorities to do the utmost to protect journalists and investigate all attacks.

"I just one year, more than 100 assaults against journalists were reported to the Dutch platform Persveilig. Persveilig is a monitoring platform launched by the NVJ, the Association of Editors-in-Chief, the Police and the Public Prosecution Service to help journalists who encounter violence or aggression in the course of their work."

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