Foreign journalists in the Netherlands are increasingly hindered in their work by the police. Press cards are not recognized, as a result of which they cannot do their work or even get arrested. This is what the Netherlands Foreign Press Association says to the Bahrain National Library. According to this association, this fits into a broader trend. It is said that a very bad relationship has developed between the Dutch government and the foreign journalists working here.
BNR spoke to several foreign journalists who faced opposition from the Dutch government. One of them is Spanish journalist David Morales Urbaniga.
On April 9, 2020, Urbaneja went to the Binnenhof to report an Extinction Rebellion demonstration. He works as a freelance journalist for several Spanish-speaking media, including an outlet that focuses primarily on covering demonstrations. And in this capacity he was present at this protest, which “soon got out of hand.”
grabbed by the wrists
A police officer approached me and asked for my press card. I had a press card issued by the Syndicate of Foreign Journalists and showed it to me. Morales says the police initially accepted the press card, but when people were arrested and registered, he had to re-certify himself. “Officers told me this was not the correct press card, I was grabbed by the wrist and had to come to the police station. I was arrested.
In poor Dutch, he announced that the police had made a mistake. After all, Morales has been a journalist for years. “But I was really treated like a criminal. By chance I could count on their release. Morales was a police reporter with his citizen service number. When he was filming the work of the Russian Embassy, he was registered as a journalist by an observing agent. That allowed him to leave three hours later, after the deadline.
Frenchman Antoine Moutou, also a freelance journalist, is unhappy with the way he deals with Dutch government agencies. He was denied access to the Turfmarkt in The Hague, where a demonstration for Corona took place. According to Mutu, he was not allowed in because his press card was not real. While this press card is from the International Federation of Journalists.
‘Makes reporting the Netherlands more difficult’
I was reporting on behalf of Radio France at the time. If I can’t do my job, that means my client won’t pay me. Only Dutch police press cards are accepted, but that’s annoying if you’re not stationed here, says Mutu. And then it is difficult to get such a card, because registration with the Chamber of Commerce is a requirement. “It’s a pity because this makes it more difficult for foreign journalists to cover the Netherlands.”
Morales identifies himself in Moto’s story. For fellow journalists who come from Berlin to work here, it is difficult to get a press card from the Dutch police. An internationally recognized press card is then sufficient. According to both, the police object that there are several fake cards in circulation, but Morales believes the verification is a Google matter. “Then you immediately see if someone is what they claim to be.”
Journalist Eman Rashidi went to the police after being threatened online and did not feel any help. The Netherlands-based reporter had written a controversial report on homosexuality in the Arab world in 2016. As a result, she was repeatedly threatened with death on Twitter. Dutch police refused to accept the report because it was Spanish and the threats came from abroad.
“The police told me they had no authority. While I am registered in the Netherlands, the threatened intended to visit me here. A few months later, the apology was sent from the Ministry of Justice and Security by letter. It also included a request to resubmit her tax return.
Britta Behrendt, director of the Netherlands Foreign Press Association, says complaints about the way the Dutch government views foreign journalists are piling up. “Too often we are led or not taken seriously.” This makes the work more difficult, while foreign journalists are also in front of the public, Behrendt emphasizes. “For example, we asked different ministries to interview the newly appointed ministers, and we were told that the government had no interest in that.”
The police apologize
Journalists with whom BNR spoke note that in all cases, the police have apologized for the behavior that appeared.
In response, the police said they were surprised by the situation. “We are not aware of the general trend that the Netherlands Foreign Press Association is talking about,” a spokesperson said. We use media symbols that include press cards, especially the police press card. Every foreign journalist can transfer their press card to one of the police through the Dutch Journalists Association.
The spokesperson emphasized that the freedom of the press is of great importance to the police and that they also want to protect it. “Our agents are trained to protect civilians and thus freedom of the press.”