Calls for justice and protection of journalists following attempted murder of Dutch reporter

Following the shocking attempted murder of Dutch investigative reporter Peter R. de Vries, the international media community has spoken out about this attack on democracy and how swift justice is needed to help to protect all other European journalists.

De Vries was shot five times, including once in the head after he left the studio of broadcaster RTL yesterday afternoon. He is reported to be in a critical condition and fighting for his life.

Leading the condemnation and the call for justice was Dunja Mijatovic, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe. She spoke of her shock, adding that  “everything should be done to bring the perpetrator(s) and mastermind(s) of this horrific crime to justice and to ensure the safety of journalists in Europe.”

Alice Stollmeyer, the Executive Director of Defend Democracy, noted that this was yet another case of a European journalist who has been targeted while investigating organized crime.

Also calling for swift justice was Vera Jourova, the Vice-President for Values and Transparency at the European Commission. She also called it an “attack on freedom of the press and on democracy”. 

Teresa Ribiero the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media said it was a “terrible blow to media freedom” and hoped for the journalist’s recovery and for justice to take its course.

Press freedom organisation ARTICLE 19 reacted by calling for justice and for journalists to be allowed to carry out their work in safety.

De Vries, a well-known and respected crime journalist, had received multiple threats against his life in the past.

In 2013, Willem Holleeder, a criminal known as the ‘Heineken Kidnapper’ was convicted for making threats against de Vries.

Then in 2019, Ridouan Taghi, an individual on trial for drug trafficking and murder, publicly denied reports he had threatened to have the journalist killed.

De Vries was acting as a counsellor to a state witness against Taghi. The witness’s previous lawyer had been shot dead in Amsterdam in September 2019.

The journalist has covered a number of high profile investigations and his television programme ‘Crime Reporter’ set a Dutch television viewing record. 

A celebrity in the country, he has been a frequent guest of television shows for many years. It was following one such appearance that the assassination attempt took place.

Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema called him a “national hero” and a “rare, courageous journalist who tirelessly sought justice.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned the attack as an “attack on the free press that is so critical to our democracy.”

Journalists die in Europe

During the last four years, there have been a concerning number of assassinations and attempted assassinations against journalists.

In October 2017, Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated with a car bomb just meters from her home. She had been ruthlessly investigating corruption and crime in Malta, linked to the highest echelons of power.

While a trial is ongoing, no one has been convicted of masterminding or carrying out the crime to date.

Then, in February 2018, Slovakian investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiance Martina Kusnirova were murdered at their home near Bratislava. Kuciak had been investigating businessman Marian Kocner, who had previously threatened him, at the time of his murder.

Kocner was acquitted of giving the order for his murder in September 2020 but the ruling was overturned earlier this month. The case will now be tried again, with the submission of additional evidence.

In April of this year, police reporter Giorgos Karaivaz was sprayed with bullets outside his home in Athens. He died instantly after suffering multiple gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

Police said they suspected a contract killing, yet no one has been arrested to date.

                           
                               
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