Opinion: Ministerial threat

POSTED: 01/6/12 5:01 PM

The Friendly Island is still a safe place for journalists to work. Sure we have been threatened a couple of times – once even by a member of the current cabinet – but no shots have been fired and the threats did not go further than a war or words. If those threats are uttered in a phone conversation it is pointless to file a complaint, because the only thing you’ll ever be able to prove is that so and so called that and that phone number at a particular time. So we did not make a fuss, and to be fair, the minister in question has not executed his threats, though we had the impression at the time that he had the intention to do this literally at the time, and he has never repeated them again either.
Our nature is all about forgiveness, so we put this part of the story peacefully to rest, but we thought it would be interesting to share it with our readers first.
Journalists in Mexico have a somewhat shorter life expectancy that most of our colleagues. The International; Press Institute said yesterday that in 2011 103 journalists were killed while they were doing their work. Mexico turned out the most dangerous place on earth for journalists, because in that country ten of them died last year.
The IPI said in a statement that last year’s death toll is the second-highest since the introduction of the Death Watch in 1997. Only 2009 topped last year with 110 dead journalists.
But in spite of the apparent slight decline in 2011, the IPI warns that the numbers are steadily going up.
Most of the fallen journalists were local reporters or camera-operators. They mostly died while reporting about local conflicts, corruption and other illegal events.
The second most dangerous countries for journalist to work in during 2011 was Iraq, where nine colleagues died; further down the list are Yemen, Pakistan and Honduras with six dead journalists each.
“We mourn the loss of these 103 journalists. To obtain their news journalists often have to enter the danger zone. We bow deeply for the colleagues who take this risk on our behalf every day, IPI-chairwoman Alison Bethel McKenzie said in a brief comment on the figures.
The report makes once again clear the value of a constitutional democracy like ours, where journalists have the freedom to do their work without running the risk of getting shot. Against that background, we take a ministerial threat not too lighthearted, but we don’t lose sleep over it either.
The Dutch Telegraaf recently fired one of its star reporters, Martijn Koolhoven, because he had made up a story for the benefit of a friend. (That is humor, one stand up comedian’s comment was on that decision). Koolhoven let himself be interviewed by the Volkskrant and he shared an interesting piece of wisdom with the reporter. Henri Goeman Borgesius, a former editor-in-chief at the Telegraaf told him at the beginning of his career: “Martijn, if you have more friends than enemies, you are doing something wrong.”
That puts the ministerial threat at our address in a different perspective, doesn’t it?

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