By Jens Sorensen

As the NUJ Netherlands representative on the NUJ's Ethics Council, I attended an online public meeting on Thursday, 7 October, which discussed the Afghan crisis's ethical reporting, asylum and refugees. The NUJ Ethics Council event, chaired by the council's chair, Professor Chris Frost, was very interesting. It was especially heart-rending to see and hear BBC news producer Farhad Mohammadi, who had recently left Kabul to come to the UK, emotional talk about his own 'escape' and the fate of a large number of colleagues and their families left behind. Other engaging contributions came from journalist and author Daniel Trilling; NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet; and IFJ deputy general secretary Jeremy Dear.

But why don't you watch the recording below to hear and see for yourself? 

NUJ Netherlands and the union’s Continental European Council are saddened and angered at the news that high-profile investigative crime reporter Peter R. de Vries died today from his injuries, having survived a shooting in the Dutch capital last week. We send our condolences to his family, friends and journalistic colleagues.

While the motives of his assailants remain unclear, the context of the murder in daylight, in front of witnesses and emerging from a television studio sends a chilling message to all crime reporters.

De Vries, 64, was shot five times at close range in a busy street in the centre of Amsterdam at 7.30 in the evening. He had just left the television studios of the programme RTL Boulevard where he had been taking part as a guest in a discussion programme.

De Vries had been acting as an advisor and spokesperson for a crown witness in a trial against members of a violent drugs gang. The Dutch journalists’ union (NVJ) general secretary Thomas Bruning said that while we do not yet know for certain which of De Vries’ activities this murder relates to, the fact that it took place right in front of the RTL studios strikes at the heart of journalism.

NUJ Netherlands chair, Tony Sheldon said: “If journalists in this country become afraid to report the truth there can be no free press and democracy itself is threatened.”

The Saturday following the shooting another television programme was postponed after RTL Boulevard received telephone threats, deemed serious, from the criminal underworld. This was described as unique by Peter ter Velde, project leader of the Dutch press safety campaign Persveilig, who added that the boundaries of threats and violence against journalists are being pushed further and further.

While the De Vries murder is in a league of its own, attacks and threats against journalists have been increasing throughout the Netherlands in recent years. NUJ Netherlands supports the Dutch union NVJ and Persveilig in urging journalists to report incidents and the police and prosecuting services to take them seriously.

NUJ Netherlands also condemns public figures, including politicians, who stoke the atmosphere of hostility against journalists by making disparaging comments about the media. One Dutch politician recently described journalists as “the scum of the earth”.

 

Below the text of the letters that the NUJ Netherlands chair Tony Sheldon sent on behalf of the branch to Belarus journalists Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Daria Chultsova sentenced to two years in prison for doing their job. 

My name is Tony Sheldon and I’m part of a branch of the UK and Ireland’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) based here in Holland. We wanted to write to you and your Belsat colleagues to let you know that you are not forgotten and that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you as fellow journalists and reporters just trying to do our jobs. We admire your courage and feel humbled by the sacrifice that you are currently having to make simply for writing the news.

We in the NUJ, together with 50 journalist organisations in 34 European countries, are calling on the Belarussian government to release you. We are appealing to the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union to urge the authorities in Belarus to adhere to basic standards of human rights and press freedom.

Our trade union called for your release in March on “Freedom Day” the anniversary of Belarus independence in 1918. Recently we discussed your country again at our online delegate meeting. Tomorrow Dutch-based journalists are taking the message to the Belarus embassy in The Hague. The difficulties journalists face in your country are not going unnoticed.

Today’s call for your release, and that of 28 other journalists, is being organised through the International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) and their affiliate in Belarus, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). They have strongly condemned the imprisonment of all the journalists, calling for their recognition as political prisoners,  demanding their immediate release and the dropping of all charges against them. 

I trust that things are not too tough for you in prison and that you are being treated with some degree of humanity. I trust you are receiving sufficient food, exercise and access to reading materials - which should be your right.

I hope the authorities will be decent enough to allow this letter through to you and that it may offer you a degree of hope and courage in what are surely dark days. We must hope for a better future one in which all Belarussians can enjoy the peace, freedom, and prosperity that is their due.

Further info on the situation in Belarus and the letter-writing campaign.  

EFJ affiliates letter to European Heads of State and Government about the situation in Belarus 25 March 2021

Nine Belarusian journalists are in jail: send them a letter of support

NUJ condemns state-hijacking of plane and detention of Raman Pratasevich

Journalists leaders stand up for Belarus media

Belarus: an act of state terrorism to arrest a journalist

 

NUJ members working in the Netherlands are shocked and angry at the news of the attempted murder of high-profile investigative crime reporter Peter R. de Vries in Amsterdam last night. The NUJ Netherlands branch stands shoulder to shoulder with our Dutch and international colleagues in condemning this brazen attempt to intimidate our profession.

De Vries (64) has continued to report on crime in the Netherlands for decades, despite reports of receiving threats to his life. Yesterday’s attack took place outside the offices of Dutch television channel RTL where he had been a guest on a programme.

NUJ Netherlands chair Tony Sheldon: “This was an attempt to murder a brave and tenacious reporter apparently for doing his job. But it was more than that, it was an attempt to silence a free press. We, as journalists, must remain resolute, in the face of all threats, to defend our role to report the truth.”

General secretary of the Dutch Journalists’ Association (NVJ) Thomas Bruning said: “this strikes at the heart of journalism. De Vries is a fierce crime fighter, persistent and courageous. We can only hope he survives.”

The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) condemned the attempted murder as another tragic blow to press freedom in Europe. EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregard said: “Enabling and protecting the crucial work of journalists to deal with crime and other essential issues is key for any democracy.” 

Michelle Stanistreet, General secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said: “Our thoughts are with Peter de Vries and his family. This is a deeply shocking attack on a journalist on the streets of Amsterdam. The level of violence against journalists for just doing their job is something governments must take seriously, and justice must be done.”

A recent investigation by PersVeilig or Press safety, a joint initiative of the NVJ, newspaper editors, the police and public prosecutors found eight out of ten journalists in the Netherlands faced threats or aggression in 2021, a significant increase on 2017.

De Vries who won an international Emmy Award in 2008 for his work investigating the 2006 disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba, was shot five times at close range. He remains this morning fighting for his life in hospital. Three suspects have been arrested.

Below links to the reactions in full from the NUJ, NVJ and the IFJ/EFJ, as well as how this shocking attack was reported by BBC, the Guardian and Dutch News.

Misdaadjournalist Peter R. de Vries neergeschoten; 'dit treft journalistiek recht in het hart'

Dutch journalist in critical condition after being shot five times

NUJ “shocked” at shooting of Peter de Vries  

Peter R de Vries: Dutch crime journalist wounded in Amsterdam shooting 

Crime reporter Peter de Vries fighting for life after Amsterdam shooting

Peter R de Vries shooting: King condemns ‘attack on free press’

 

 

 

 

Today, Freedom Day in Belarus, the National Union of Journalists’ branch in the Netherlands calls for the release of Catarina Andreeva and Darja Chulcova, together with ten other colleagues, who are in prison simply for doing their job, reporting on events in their country.

NUJ Netherlands fears their imprisonment amounts to the criminalisation of journalism by President Lukashenko's regime.

The NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, today joined 50 other leaders of journalist organisations in Europe demanding their release.

They are appealing to the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union to intensify the pressure on the authorities in Belarus to bring about an adherence to basic standards of human rights and press freedom.

Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said:

Today we have seen a significant show of unity and solidarity amongst journalists' leaders and trade union representatives, to stand up for journalists and the media in Belarus. The 12 journalists in jail must be release immediately and we are seeking support from European governments to use their influence to support global press freedom.

The two journalists were working for Polish satellite television station Belsat when arrested reporting on anti-government rally in Minsk last November. On 18 February they were sentenced to two years in prison for "organizing public events aimed at disrupting civil order." The two rejected the charges against them, saying in court:

We consider the verdict as politically motivated, aiming to intimidate all media workers so they stop doing their job of reporting on socially important events in the country, which in fact means a ban on the profession.

The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) and their affiliate in Belarus, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), have strongly condemned their imprisonment, recognising them as political prisoners,  demanding their immediate release and the dropping of all charges against them. IFJ President Younes Mjahed said: 

This decision is shameful and totally unfounded. a clear attack on press freedom and we all stand together against this mockery of justice.

The NUJ in the UK and Ireland has asked its members to write to the journalists currently in jail. See Journalists leaders stand up for Belarus media

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