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The dramatic situation of our colleagues at the Dutch television station RTL 4 shows that the enemies of independent media and free speech are not confined to any particular part of the world. We must stand up to them in solidarity. The editorial staff of Gazeta Wyborcza declares its solidarity with the Dutch journalists and demands that responsible authorities ensure their safety.
We are filled with indignation at the recent attack on RTL 4. Last Tuesday, Peter de Vries, a well-known investigative journalist, was shot multiple times, including in the head, after leaving the broadcaster’s headquarters in Amsterdam.
Currently, de Vries is fighting for his life in hospital. Despite the arrest of two suspects, the motives behind the attack remain unclear. However, it is known that de Vries acted as a confidential advisor to one of the crown witnesses in the trial against an international drug trafficking gang. Two years ago, a lawyer involved in the case was gunned down.
On Saturday, RTL 4 cancelled its weekly live show due to a "serious threat from organized crime". The decision was made after consultations with the police and the Ministry of Justice. The station's headquarters are protected by a police cordon and several police cars.
Unlike in Hungary or Poland, in the Netherlands, media freedom is not threatened by an authoritarian government that tries to keep independent journalists on a tight leash in order to stay in power. It is an organized crime group that wants to silence our colleagues at RTL 4 and, as the attack on Peter de Vries clearly shows, it will stop at nothing to achieve this hideous objective. Unfortunately, within the the European Union, it is not an isolated case. In 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in Malta. A year later, the same happened to Ján Kuciak in Slovakia. Both investigative journalists were the victims of organized crime groups who used murder to silence any media scrutiny.
We urge the Dutch authorities to do everything in their power to find and punish those responsible for shooting Peter de Vries and those who planned the attack on RTL 4. We demand that our colleagues be guaranteed safety, a necessary condition for journalistic work.
This issue does not only concern the Netherlands. Media freedom is a cornerstone of the European Union. We expect EU institutions to take concrete action to protect and enforce it. In the Netherlands, in Poland, in Hungary, and in our entire European community.
Signed by investigative journalists of Gazeta Wyborcza:
Bartosz T. Wieliński
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.
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