Brussels should leave our free press alone

5 March 2018

Brussels should leave our free press alone

Monday, Dutch public news channel NOS broadcast a special programme on fake news. They had good reason to. We are confronted by fake news more than ever before. Any nutcase with an internet connection can throw out into the world the greatest nonsense possible. And if foreign powers want to interfere with our elections, the security services have to be on the ball. In addition, a permanent commitment to critical learning about how to deal with sources and with information is needed.

But sometimes fake news comes from relatively close to home. In an attempt to deal with this the European Commission has established a bureau - 'EU vs Disinfo' - that has recently accused several Dutch journalists of propagating fake news. These journalists are said to have highlighted only one side of an issue and in this way misled their readers, when in reality they only reported what was said at a meeting. Complaints to EU vs Disinfo led to these Dutch journalists being added to a list of propagators of fake news. You can't combat fake news with a Brussels bureau that gives stamps of approval or disapproval to 'good' and 'bad' journalists. It's really bizarre that the fight against fake news is being conducted in the same fashion in which the EU itself tends to undermine our democratic rule of law by interfering with the content of publications and with freedom of information. The next step could be censorship mandated by Brussels. This is a dangerous development.

No institution of the state should ever interfere with the free press. That goes for the Dutch government, but certainly also for the European Union. This seems axiomatic, but unfortunately it isn't. That's why the VVD and SP – parties of the centre right government and the radical left opposition – advocate the closure of the 'EU vs Disinfo' bureau. Parliament votes on our proposal on Tuesday. It is to be hoped that the other parties represented there will join us in taking a firm stand in defence of press freedom.

SP Member of Parliament Peter Kwint was joined in writing this opinion piece by VVD Member of Parliament Dilan Yesilgoz- Zegerius.


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