Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Eighteen years ago, I was working at the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta, when I received a call from my friend Sander Thoenes, who worked as a journalist in Indonesia.

By Kees van Baar

We had planned to go for dinner together, but Sander had to cancel because he wanted to go to East-Timor to report the news on the turmoil following the outcome of the referendum on independence. Instead of reporting the news, he became the news himself: he got brutally killed.

Intimidation of journalists

This horrific murder of Sander was an act of intimidation to other journalists, who had just entered the country. The killing was more than a human personal tragedy: it was a tragedy for journalism and for society. Unfortunately Sander’s case is not unique: the last ten years 827 journalists were killed and even more were threatened and intimidated. This is a threat to a well-functioning democracy. A free media environment enables people to raise their voice and hold their leaders accountable. 

End impunity

That is why the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs works together with Free Press Unlimited to fight impunity worldwide. We are bringing together different stakeholders and working with the United Nations to strengthen mechanisms to make a difference on the ground. Preventing violence against journalists by actively promoting a culture in which free speech can flourish; protecting journalists against violence with (digital) security training and sound legislation, and prosecuting perpetrators who intimidate or commit violence against journalists. The future of a society is not secure if journalists are not safe. That is why the Netherlands stands up for the safety of journalists.

Kees van Baar – Human Rights Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He wrote this piece as a column in our No News is Bad News newspaper.

Click here to read the newspaper.