April 1, 2014

Government strong arms journalist, journalist to sue for libel

Filed under: Weird by Orangemaster @ 10:15 am

Earlier this month the government issued terrorist warnings to its employees about investigative journalist Brenno De Winter, which were unwarranted, and had to be rectified. These warnings were sent to every single security department of every single ministry, including personal details about the journalist.

Problem is, the government didn’t put in as much energy in rectifying the situation as they did slandering a well-reputed journalist. The national police invited De Winter for ‘a cup of coffee’ (aka a sit down) to talk about what happened and diffuse the tension, but managed to make it worse by telling De Winter he could not bring his lawyer, which looks like intimidation. De Winter told this to the press in the hopes of indirectly getting the national police to change their mind about him bringing his lawyer along ‘for coffee’. De Winter and his lawyer plan to sue for libel at this point.

After questions from the floor, the Dutch government distanced themselves from dealing with this and is hoping the Minister of Justice and Safety Ivo Opstelten will mop this up and make it go away.

So far, no dice.

(Link: thepostonline.nl, Photo of journalist Brenno de Winter by Roy van Ingen, some rights reserved)

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March 5, 2014

Chain mails warn government about journalist Brenno de Winter

Filed under: Weird by Branko Collin @ 12:01 pm

Brenno de Winter is an investigative reporter who was declared Journalist of the Year 2011 and that accolade seems to have the entire Dutch government quaking in its boots.

Crazy chain mails about the danger he poses are doing the rounds at all levels of Dutch government. De Winter wrote last Monday:

The army has been alerted, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism has been brought in and all the departments have been warned. Letters are circulating among thousands of civil servants containing my home address and photos of me. We are at threat level one because Brenno is in the country and whoever spots him should raise the alarm immediately.

The alarming mails started because somebody believed De Winter was working on an article about government security.

De Winter found out that there was a campaign being staged against him when he went to the Finance Ministry for a meeting and a lunch. “A woman said: ‘We have to call security because we have a protocol about you.'” Four security agents came to bark at De Winter for a while before letting him go to his appointment, but not without one of them accompagnying De Winter: “The man watched everything. What I ate, how I ate it, whom I talked to, how I spoke and what I talked about.”

Both the police and the Ministry of Internal Affairs have distributed correction letters clearing De Winter’s name, although it remains to be seen how effective these rectifications are. The police seems to have an effective system for distributing libel, but not for retracting it. The police’s correction points out how damaging the chain mails are: “These actions paint an incorrect picture of Mr De Winter and hinder him without reason in his profession as an investigative reporter. Certain data about Mr De Winter have been distributed illegally and without sufficient regard for professional standards.”

De Winter’s main qualm with the campaign against him is that it does nothing to intercept real bad actors.

In 2000 reporter Willem Oltmans was awarded 8 million guilders in damages following a conspiracy by the Dutch government to silence him after he had interviewed president Sukarno of former Dutch colony Indonesia.

See also: No fees for freedom of information requests says Dutch Supreme Court

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February 9, 2013

No fees for freedom of information requests says Dutch Supreme Court

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 5:05 pm

Municipalities can only charge fees for personal services and responding to a freedom of information request is not such a service because it serves a common good.

That is the conclusion the Dutch Supreme Court reached yesterday.

In the past years municipalities often charged considerable fees for dealing with freedom of information requests in order to derail the process. RTL Nieuws refused to pay these fees and was sued by several local governments in reponse. According to De Nieuwe Reporter the municipality of Landgraaf lost its case, but Leerdam won. The Supreme Court was asked to provide clarity.

Municipalities can still charge fees for the form in which it responds to a freedom of information request (WOB-verzoek in Dutch), i.e. for photocopies and such. The Supreme Court made a point of mentioning this even though nobody had contested the issue.

Reporter Brenno de Winter sees the verdict as a starting point to get his money back: “It took me hundreds of hours to get rid of these fees. This lost time represents a lot of money to a freelancer like me. I am going to ask back fees that I had already paid and charge the municipalities for the time I lost. […] I am also studying options to criminally charge four civil servants because they threatened me with costs [of up to 30,000 euro] if I were to persevere with my information requests.”

De Winter was declared Journalist of the Year 2011 by the Dutch Association of Journalists NVJ because of his scoops concerning the bad security of both the OV transport card and government websites.

(Photo of journalist Brenno de Winter by Roy van Ingen, some rights reserved)

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