Dutch government furious after churchgoers physically assault journalists
Worshippers in the Dutch towns of Urk and Krimpen aan den Ijssel attacked journalists on Sunday after the morning service. The Dutch government and the police have condemned the attacks and defended journalists’ right to “do their jobs.”
Dutch journalists attacked in Urk and Krimpen
The controversial news broke last week that two churches in Urk and Krimpen would be opening their doors to up to 500 and 1.500 parishioners, respectively, in spite of the government’s coronavirus restrictions, and many across the Netherlands responded with outrage.
Dutch journalists were at churches in both towns on Sunday to report on the situation and talk to those who had attended the services, but a reporter from Rijnmond was kicked and punched outside the Mieraskerk in Krimpen, while a reporter from PowNed was attacked and hit by a car outside the Sionkerk in Urk.
The church board in Urk apologised for the incident. “We apologise to anyone hurt by this,” they wrote in a statement on their website. A 43-year-old man was arrested for the attack in Krimpen, while a 35-year-old man was arrested for driving into the journalist in Urk.
Dutch government and Chief of Police condemn the attacks
Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the opening of the churches very selfish and completely irresponsible, and members of the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) were shocked and angered by the attacks. Labour leader Liliane Ploumen called the behaviour of the attackers unacceptable: “Let journalists do their job,” she tweeted.
The mayor of Krimpen defended the public’s right to attend church but condemned the attacks: “It is the constitution that allows churchgoers to go to church… [But] that same constitution protects the press from doing its work freely and openly. Stay away from journalists!” Elias van Belzen from the Reformed Political Party-ChristenUnie in the municipality of Nieuwkoop had a different message: “Then stay away from there, you thrill seeker,” he told the journalist who was attacked in Krimpen.
Chief of Police Henk van Essen also called the violence against the two journalists unacceptable. “Journalists must be able to do their work,” he said on Sunday evening. The Dutch Association of Editors-in-Chief have called the attackers’ behaviour an infringement of the freedom of the press, and are calling on the Public Prosecution Service to look into the reasons why police didn’t take harsher action against the perpetrators when the attacks took place.