The assassination in July 2021 of crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, who also worked as a legal adviser for victims of crime, shocked not only a society that values press freedom, but also the authorities who have developed a sophisticated system to protect journalists.
In the Netherlands, the media are traditionally independent and highly trusted by a majority of the population. There is a diverse media landscape with a high level of pluralism and a wide range of national (Volkskrant, Telegraaf…) and regional (Leidsch Dagblad, Gooi en Eemlander…) daily newspapers and magazines. A well-established independent public broadcasting service, NOS, works alongside several big commercial broadcasting companies.
Press freedom is actively protected by the state and the government, albeit more efficiently in continental Netherlands than in the overseas territories. The media are often attacked by small, populist parties on the far right and left of the political spectrum. A majority of Dutch journalists are members of the Dutch Federation of Journalists (NVJ), an active union that fights for safe working conditions and fair pay.
Although a solid legal framework effectively protects press freedom, the government has not provided the legally required access to official documentation for several years. In most cases, the documentation requested by journalists arrived late or was incorrect or incomplete. There is a risk of breaching the confidentiality of sources due to the powers granted to security services to decrypt communications networks and to tap phones and internet communication systems.
The level of pluralism in the Dutch media is high and there are very few limits on the dissemination of information and opinion. However, there is concern about the growing concentration of economic power in the media. Two media companies own the great majority of papers. There is also concern about the decline of regional journalism.
Polarisation of public opinion regarding Covid restrictions and immigration has led to an increase in verbal and physical aggression against journalists, especially photo and camera crews. A consequence has sometimes been self-censorship and reluctance to tackle certain subjects. Abuse and trolling on social media inhibit news gathering and publication. Female reporters and journalists of color are especially vulnerable to such attacks.
The assassination of crime reporter Peter R. de Vries in July 2021 came as a shock to a society that values and legally protects freedom of the press. The ongoing dangers of organized crime have earned certain reporters police protection. Physical attacks targeting them are usually prosecuted. Reporters threatened offline or, increasingly, online, can call an emergency number to report crimes and receive advice.