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Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press 2017

Netherlands

Profile

Press Freedom Status: 
Free

Freedom of the Press Scores

(0=Most Free, 100=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Population: 
17,000,000
Internet Penetration Rate: 
93.1%

Key Developments in 2016:

  • In April, a member of the D66 party submitted a bill to repeal criminal provisions against lèse majesté, the offense of insulting the monarch; the proposal remained under discussion at year’s end.
  • A legislative initiative to amend the Intelligence and Security Act caused alarm within the journalistic community, with critics noting that the proposed expansion of the intelligence services’ ability to gather communications data could threaten the protection of journalistic sources.
  • After a failed coup attempt against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July, a camera crew covering a pro-Erdoğan rally in Rotterdam came under attack by participants; a number of journalists who covered the coup attempt also received threats, ostensibly from supporters of the Turkish president.

Executive Summary

The media function in a predominantly free and transparent environment. Freedoms of expression and the press are legally protected, though controversial criminal provisions against insult and defamation remain on the books. Various watchdog groups as well as politicians have also expressed concern in recent years that the government’s antiterrorism measures, particularly legislation, have the potential to weaken journalistic freedom.

Proposed changes to the Intelligence and Security Act, under consideration for several years, continued to move through the legislative system in 2016. Among other things, the proposal envisions expanding the power of Dutch intelligence services to include untargeted, large-scale surveillance. Critics of the bill, among them Dutch and international rights watchdogs, continued to warn that dragnet surveillance powers would undermine the ability of journalists to protect their sources and discourage sources from communicating with the media altogether. In October, the Council of State, a constitutionally mandated advisory body, published a review of the bill. The review found expanded surveillance to be both legitimate and necessary but expressed concerns about the provisions on untargeted surveillance, noting that they may not be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights. The proposal remained under discussion at year’s end.

In a positive step, a D66 legislator submitted a proposal in April to eliminate criminal provisions against lèse-majesté and a related law against insulting foreign heads of state. The initiative received support from four other parties—effectively, a parliamentary majority—but remained under discussion at year’s end. Separately, the Senate passed amendments to the Media Act in October. They include measures to increase the news and educational content aired by public broadcasters. Although the package also included a controversial provision empowering the Minister of Education, Culture, and Science to appoint the board of directors and supervisory board of the public broadcasting agency, it mandated the creation of an independent advisory committee to prevent the minister from making politically motivated appointments.

In the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July, a number of journalists in the Netherlands received threats after covering the event and its reverberations in the Netherlands’ Turkish community. At a gathering of Erdoğan supporters in Rotterdam, a camera operator for NOS, a public service broadcaster, was hit by participants, and the crew reported damage to their car. Generally, such violence and threats against media professionals are rare. 

 

This country report has been abridged for Freedom of the Press 2017. For background information on press freedom in Netherlands, see Freedom of the Press 2016.