News

October 5, 2019

New law threatens press freedom in the Netherlands

DR
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a new Dutch law under which Dutch citizens travelling to an area “controlled by terrorist groups” must request permission from the justice ministry. This law threatens the freedom to inform, RSF said, calling on the Dutch senate to make an exception for journalists.

Under the new law, failing to request the justice ministry’s permission before travelling to an area “controlled by terrorist groups” is punishable by up to two years in prison. This threatens the freedom to inform by restricting journalists’ ability to report in the field and by potentially endangering the confidentiality of their sources there.

 

“As well as restricting the media’s work, this law threatens journalists’ safety in the field,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk. “How are reporters in a war zone who may have to cross a border reasonably supposed to request a permit and potentially expose themselves to belligerents? The Dutch senate must address this illogicality and make an exception for journalists.”

 

RSF also questions the law’s use of the term “terrorist zone,” a vague concept that is hard to pin down. By their nature,  war zones are subject to change depending on the situation of the forces on the ground. RSF therefore supports the journalists’ associations in their plea to withdraw or change this law. On November 12, there will be a hearing in the senators chamber where experts will give their opinion on this concept bill and will draw attention to the law’s problems.

Although ranked 4th in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index, the Netherlands has not escaped the overall tendency for press freedom to decline in Europe.