European Federation of Journalists

Netherlands: “strong signal” needed after new attack on photographer

Credit: Screenshot Omroep Gelderland

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) strongly condemned the violent aggression against a Dutch photographer and his girlfriend in Lunteren last Monday 19 April. The EFJ joined its affiliate in the Netherlands, the NVJ, in demanding a strong response from the authorities to the increasing number of attacks against journalists and media workers.

On 19 April 2021, an amateur photojournalist and his girlfriend were shooting photos of a car fire when several people became so aggressive towards them that they had to take refuge in their car. Shortly afterwards, footages show a digger pushing the car and sending it onto its roof into the ditch. Firefighters who were present on the scene to tackle the car fire, helped to extract the photographer and his girlfriend who were inside the vehicle.

The couple were only slightly injured and were treated at the scene by ambulance personnel but did not need to be hospitalised. The photographer told media he was suffering from muscle pain and back pain.

“I went there to take pictures. I was facing a driveway on the other side of the Krommehoekseweg. Then I saw four people coming off the site. They threatened me with death,” the photographer told Telegraaf. “I have pain all over, I have muscle pain, back pain. My back was damaged by the glass from the car window,” he added.

Police said in a statement they arrested three people who were taken into custody, including the driver of the digger.

NVJ General Secretary Thomas Bruning said this attack should mark a turning point in the way journalists and media workers are treated in the country:

“Everyday in the Netherlands, a journalist is attacked or threatened. People should start saying to each other: keep your hands off journalists. They do important work. The Public Prosecution Service and the police must send a strong signal and show that perpetrators cannot get away with this,” he told Omroep Gelderland.

“The images of the assault are unbearable. We all have in mind that the worst could have happened. We expect a strong response from the authorities. The message must be clear: an attack on a journalist is an attack on press freedom,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

This year, 100 cases of assaults were reported to the monitoring platform  Persveilig launched by the Dutch Journalists’ Union (NJV), 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. This figure represents a significant increase compared to last year with 121 reports received for the whole of 2020.

Last January, several journalists were physically attacked following the government’s decision to impose a curfew to curb the circulation of the coronavirus. Last April, new violent assaults targeted journalists and media workers who were reporting from churches.