Peter R de Vries (composition + photo: DWDD) Library

“When journalists can no longer report without fear, it…

“When journalists can no longer report without fear, it affects us all”

An interview with investigative reporter Benedikt Strunz about the attack on Peter de Vries

When leaving the TV studio in Amsterdam, crime reporter Peter de Vries was shot in the head. ECPMF spoke with Benedikt Strunz, expert for organised crime at German public broadcaster NDR. Strunz says: “We need more reporters like him, not less.”

Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries is fighting for his life in hospital after being shot down in Lange Leidsedwars street in Amsterdam on 6 July at around 7.30 pm. De Vries had just left the RTL Boulevard studio on foot, where he had been a guest. After leaving the building, he was shot five times at close range, including in the head, in a side street of the studio. The police have arrested three suspects.

Peter R. de Vries (64) is a well-known Dutch investigative journalist who covered high-profile criminal investigations. He worked for De Telegraaf, Panorama magazine, Algemeen Dagblad and had his own crime programme on television. He won an international Emmy Award in 2008 for his work investigating the 2006 disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba.

According to a media report, De Vries has been threatened in the past and had received police protection. He said on Twitter in 2019 that he would be on a death list. He has been acting as a counselor to a state witness testifying in the case against Ridouan T., suspected of murder and drug trafficking. Before the attack on De Vries the brother and the former lawyer of the state witness had been murdered.

The General Secretary of the Dutch Journalists’ Union Thomas Bruning declared: “This is what you always hoped would not happen. Of course, it remains to be seen what De Vries’ activities are related to, but the attack took place outside RTL Boulevard. It goes straight to the heart of journalism. Let’s hope and pray for his health.”

 

ECPMF spoke to investigative journalist Benedikt Strunz, an expert on organised crime working for German public broadcaster NDR.

 

Photo: Benedikt Strunz

ECPMF: Mr Strunz, the attempted murder of Peter de Vries shocked the European public sphere. How do you assess this gruesome act?

Benedikt Strunz: I am honestly deeply shocked. I have been following Peter’s work for many years, he is an absolute authority on organised crime. And even though I have no illusions about the current development in the field of organised crime in the Netherlands, I would not have thought such an act possible. I very much hope that he will recover. We need more reporters like him, not less.

 

ECPMF: De Vries is a prominent person in the Netherlands. What kind of message is linked with attacking him?

Strunz: The message that goes out from this assassination attempt is: we can get any of you. And neither your social status nor the police can protect you. And this message is not only addressed to us investigative journalists. This attack is directed against a whole society.

 

ECPMF: It is still to be proved if the attempted murder is related to his work as an investigative journalist. The probability is high, to say the least. How dangerous is the work for investigative reporters in the Netherlands and/or in Germany?

Strunz: I know from very close colleagues that the situation in the Netherlands has worsened considerably. Some colleagues working in the field of reporting on organised crime are nowadays under police protection. This is actually impossible for an investigative journalist, because it makes it almost impossible to guarantee source protection and confidentiality. I think the situation is better in Germany, but I also know colleagues here who are regularly attacked and threatened because they report on criminal clan families. Of course, you take risks in this working-field and there are threats every now and then. But what happens in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or North Brabant is definitely something different.

 

ECPMF: If it was organised crime having commissioned this assault, de Vries stands in one row with Jan Kuciak,Daphne Caruana Galizia and most likely Giorgos Karaivaz. What effect do these murders have on the European community of investigative journalists?

Strunz: In Europe, we have come to know and live a very beautiful principle in recent years. It comes from the organization Forbidden Stories and it says: if you kill one of us, many of us will come and continue his or her or their work. Organised crime needs silence and darkness to grow. I can’t speak for all of my colleagues, of course, but those I’ve spoken to about the assassination attempt are very united in saying that we will continue our work undaunted. But of course, an attack like this is something that makes you think. The only weapons we have to defend ourselves are the pen and the microphone. We now need very strong civil society and political support to outlaw such crimes.

 

ECPMF: The Netherlands are a role model regarding the protection of journalists. Nevertheless they remain a vulnerable group. What do you think has to be done to improve the protection of journalists?

Strunz: The Marengo case has become a test for the Dutch rule of law. And I think the police and the judiciary would do very well to fully clarify this case, with all its entanglements. So that in the end no one can have the feeling that murder or intimidation paid off. And of course it is our task as journalists, whether we work investigatively or in the newsroom, to report on this case. As I said, organised crime hates nothing as much as the light of publicity.

But I also think that we urgently need a European response. I remember very well the horrible murder of Daphne. At that time I thought to myself: I hope I will not experience something so terrible a second time in my professional life. Today, a few years later, murders of journalists are a recurring phenomenon in Europe as well. We therefore need programmes for journalists under threat in Europe as well, and the European community must ensure that attacks on us in partner countries are ruthlessly investigated. In some of the cases mentioned here, I do not have the impression that this is happening. I can therefore only issue a warning. When journalists can no longer report without fear, it affects us all. Because democracy needs the free word in order to live.

About Benedikt Strunz:

Benedikt Strunz works as an investigative journalist for the public broadcaster NDR in Hamburg. His research focuses on organised crime and white-collar crime. Benedikt has been involved in several international investigations, including Luxemburg Leaks, Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, FinCen Files and Cartel Project. He is author of the podcast “Organisiertes Verbrechen- Recherchen im Verborgenen” (https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/info/podcast4992.html). His work has been awarded with the German Radio Award twice.

Peter R de Vries (composition + photo: DWDD) Library

Netherlands: Shocking attack on veteran crime reporter requires swift…

Netherlands: Shocking attack on veteran crime reporter requires swift action

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) is appalled by the attack on veteran Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries.

We call on the Dutch authorities to swiftly investigate and establish whether de Vries was targeted for his work as a journalist. The perpetrator(s) and mastermind(s) behind this horrific crime must be brought to justice without delay.

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) is appalled by the attack on veteran Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries.

We call on the Dutch authorities to swiftly investigate and establish whether de Vries was targeted for his work as a journalist. The perpetrator(s) and mastermind(s) behind this horrific crime must be brought to justice without delay.

De Vries is well-known for his investigative reporting on the Dutch underworld and has repeatedly received serious threats as a consequence of his work. On Tuesday evening, de Vries was gunned down on the street in Amsterdam by an unidentified attacker after appearing as a guest on TV show RTL Boulevard. He was taken to hospital in critical condition. As reported on national broadcaster NOS, five shots were fired and de Vries was shot in the head. 

Regardless of the motive, the attack on de Vries is a tragic event for Europe’s journalistic community. Without safety for journalists, there can be no free press. 

“We are shocked by the attempted murder of investigative crime reporter Peter de Vries in the Netherlands. The manner in which he was attacked reminds us of the murders of Ján Kuciak, Daphne Caruana Galizia and Giorgos Karaivaz. We have to face the fact that investigative journalists exposing the actions of organised crime are in constant danger. The state must protect them”,

says Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director of ECPMF.

“The King and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands rightly called this an attack on journalism, press freedom and the rule of law. Now we ask them to follow through with conducting a thorough investigation of the case. The Netherlands are a role model regarding press freedom. But the horrible attack on de Vries also makes clear that the protection of journalists must be improved.”

Peter R. de Vries (Photo: DWDD) Library

Dutch crime journalist fighting for life after being shot…

Dutch crime journalist fighting for life after being shot five times

The International Press Institute (IPI) today expressed horror at the shooting and serious wounding of Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries in Amsterdam and urged authorities to do all they can to ensure that all those responsible for both carrying out and possibly ordering the hit do not escape impunity.

A veteran investigative journalist focusing who has long reported on the Dutch criminal underworld, de Vries was seriously wounded after being shot five times including once in the head in a broad daylight attack in downtown Amsterdam at 7.30pm on Tuesday.

The journalist was rushed to hospital and is currently fighting for his life. Three arrests have so far been made including the suspected gunman, though no motive has yet been suggested by police.

“The shooting of courageous crime journalist Peter R. de Vries is a direct attack on the country’s journalistic community, on the freedom of the press and on Dutch society and democracy as a whole”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We express our full support and solidarity with Peter, his family and his colleague and we hope he pulls through and makes a full recovery.

“While no movie has yet been confirmed by police, all signs point to this being a targeted and calculated attack aimed at silencing de Vries’s journalistic work. To see yet another journalist who has spent their career fighting for justice and exposing criminal acts gunned down is shocking and disturbing, and another heart-breaking day for media freedom in the European Union.

“The reaction so far from the authorities in the Netherlands – immediate arrests, strong condemnation from the Prime Minster and engagement with the national security and terrorism agency – has been commendable. Yet while the swift arrests are welcome, as previous cases of such attacks on journalists within the EU have shown, arrests and prosecutions do not guarantee convictions. Authorities must take the utmost care to ensure all those who carried out and possible ordered this assassination attempt must be swiftly brought to justice.”

 

de Vries, 64, was gunned down at close distance on Lange Leidsedwars minutes after he left the studio of daily television programme RTL Boulevard, where he had just appeared as a guest. Witnesses at the scene heard five gunshots and found the journalist in a pool of blood.

During his career, de Vries had worked on numerous high-profile investigations into the criminal and drug underworld of the Netherlands. Previously had had reported for newspapers De Telegraaf and Algemeen Dagblad, where he investigated and helped police solve cold cases. For the last two decades he had also hosted his own televised crime show

The well-known reporter, who is also the director of a law office, had received numerous death threats in the past due to his work and had previously been under police protection. He has regularly appeared as a spokesman for victims or as a witness and two years ago, he posted on Twitter that he was on a “death list”.

On Wednesday, Amsterdam’s police chief confirmed that one of the suspects arrested was “probably” the suspected shooter. Two individuals were arrested while driving a car on the motorway and another in Amsterdam, following information from witnesses at the scene. No further information has been provided on the suspected motive of the attack.

Police have cordoned off the area of the shooting and are currently analysing forensic evidence and CCTV footage from the scene.

Peter R. de Vries (Photo: DWDD) Library

Dutch journalist in critical condition after being shot five…

Dutch journalist in critical condition after being shot five times

Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries is fighting for his life in hospital after being shot five times in Lange Leidsedwars street in Amsterdam yesterday evening at around 7.30. The police has arrested three suspects. The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ/IFJ) condemned the murder attempt as another tragic blow to press freedom in Europe.

On Tuesday evening, Peter R. de Vries was a guest on daily television programme RTL Boulevard. After leaving the building, he was shot several times at close range, including in the head, in a side street of the studio. Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema told a press conference that the investigative journalist was “fighting for his life.” The police have arrested three suspects.

Peter R. de Vries (64) is a well-known Dutch investigative journalist who covered high-profile criminal investigation. He worked for De Telegraaf, Panorama magazine, Algemeen Dagblad and ran his own crime programme on television. He won an international Emmy Award in 2008 for his work investigating the 2006 disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba.

According to media reports, De Vries has been threatened in the past and was granted police protection. In 2019, he said on Twitter  that he would be on a death list. He has been acting as a counselor to a state witness testifying in the case against Ridouan Taghi, suspected of murder and drug trafficking.

The General Secretary of the Dutch Journalists’ Association (NVJ) Thomas Bruning said: “This hits journalism right in the heart. Of course, it remains to be seen what De Vries’ activities are related to, but the attack took place outside RTL Boulevard. De Vries is a fierce crimefighter, persistent and courageous. We can only hope he survives.”

EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregard said: “I send my thoughts to Peter and expect an immediate investigation bringing the masterminds of this awful attack to justice. Enabling and protecting the crucial work of (investigative) journalists to deal with crime and other essential issues is key for any democracy.”

The EFJ had recently alerted over the escalation of violence against media professionals with an increase in attacks since last year and repeatedly called on the Dutch authorities to do the utmost to protect journalists and investigate all attacks.

IFJ President Younes MJahed said: “We are shocked by this attack against a journalist who has reported extensively on matters of public concerns and has taken huge risks to tell the truth. This is an attack on press freedom and we urge authorities to swiftly investigate this case. Our thoughts are with Peter, his family and friends.”
journalists at work Library

Netherlands: 8 out of 10 journalists have experienced violence…

Netherlands: 8 out of 10 journalists have experienced violence or threats

In the Netherlands, more than eight in ten journalists have experienced some form of aggression of threat, according to a new study carried out by I&O research for PersVeilig and published on 5 June 2021.

Almost 700 journalists in the Netherlands responded to the new survey “Aggression and threats towards journalists 2021” which assessed the level of safety of journalists in the country. The results paints a bleak picture with more than 8 journalists out of 10 reporting having experienced violence or threats at some point in the course of their work. Four years ago, the figure was already high, but less so, with 61 per cent having been confronted with such a situation.

Looking at the different forms or aggression of threats, journalists were mainly confronted with verbal abuse (two thirds), threats or intimidation (half), legal threats or abusive lawsuits (one fifth) and physical violence (17%). Of all journalists, cameramen and photojournalists suffer the most and fear physical violence even more as their equipment make them more visible.

The research also shows that the frequency is increasing. Thirty per cent of the respondents have to deal with an incident every month or more, compared to 18 per cent in 2017. Journalists said the attacks come mainly from individuals (60%). While most respondents (3/4) believe that their employers takes sufficient measures to guarantee their safety, freelancers are less positive with 36% saying they are dissatisfied with their clients’ response.

The PersVeilig survey shows that more needs to be done to encourage journalists to report the aggression and threats they face. Thirty per cent did not report the incident, and more than half of these did not think what they experience was bad enough to report it.

PersVeilig project manager Peter Ter Velde said that journalists still consider violence and threats to be part of their job: “They think it’s not that bad and that ‘nothing will be done’ if they file a report. But when people cross the red line and express themselves verbally or violently in such a way that it has mental and physical consequences or equipment is damaged, it goes way too far. We really need to get rid of that attitude that this is part of the job.” However, journalists massively agree (93%) that aggression and threats pose a real threat to press freedom.

As we have documented in the recent months, the survey clearly shows a deterioration in the safety of journalists in the Netherlands. It is worrying to say the least, because it is happening in a country where the attacks are generally taken seriously by the authorities. It is crucial not to let this trend take hold,” said EFJ General secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

Recommendations include systematically conducting risk assessments before sending journalists into the field and sending journalists in groups of at least two.

PersVeilig is a unique collaboration between the Dutch journalists’ union NVJ, the Association of Editors in Chief, Police and Public Prosecution Service and help journalists who encounter violence or aggression in the course of their work.