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Dutch journalist shooting an 'attack on our values' – EU chief

Eyewitnesses told local media that the 64-year-old journalist and TV presenter was shot up to five times.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

Updated Jul 7th 2021, 9:39 AM

EU CHIEF CHARLES Michel has condemned the shooting of Dutch crime reporter Peter R de Vries, who was fighting for his life after the attack in central Amsterdam. 

“This is a crime against journalism and an attack on our values of democracy and rule of law. We will relentlessly continue to defend the freedom of the press,” Michel wrote on Twitter. 

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen offered her “thoughts and solidarity” to de Vries. 

“We might disagree with a lot we see in our media but we have to agree that journalists investigating potential abuses of power are not a threat but an asset to our democracies and our societies,” she told European lawmakers debating threats to the rule of law in the bloc. 

The prominent crime reporter is in a serious condition in hospital after being shot on the street in central Amsterdam, according to police.

De Vries – who is a celebrity journalist in The Netherlands known for speaking on behalf of crime victims – was “fighting for his life”, Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema told a news conference.

Eyewitnesses told local media that the 64-year-old journalist and TV presenter was shot up to five times, including once in the head.

Police said three people had been arrested, among them the suspected shooter, but gave no details on the possible reasons for the attack.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a press conference in The Hague the attack was “shocking and inconceivable”.

“It’s an attack on a courageous journalist and by extension an attack on the freedom of the press, which is so essential for our democracy and rule of law,” he said.

De Vries was shot at around 7.30 pm (5.30pm Irish time) yesterday – still daylight at this time of year in Amsterdam – as he left a television studio after appearing on a talk show.

Het Parool daily newspaper quoted a resident as saying she heard five shots and went out to see what had happened.

She said she saw de Vries lying on the ground with a lot of blood on his face.

She told the paper that he couldn’t speak but was still alive, and that she held his hand as they waited for emergency services.

‘Black day’

Rutte and Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus met at the Dutch National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) in the evening to discuss the shooting.

“This is a black day, not only for the people close to Peter R de Vries, but also for the freedom of the press,” Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus told journalists.

“In the Netherlands, we want journalists to be able to conduct any investigation which must be carried out in complete freedom. This freedom has been seriously infringed this evening.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists called for authorities to “determine if he was targeted for his work, and ensure that the attacker and the masterminds of the attack face justice”.

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Messages of solidarity flooded Dutch social media, including from the royal family, who posted on their official Facebook page that they were deeply shocked by the news, and that de Vries and his loved ones were in their thoughts.

No stranger to threats

In the past de Vries had been given police protection after receiving threats related to his involvement in high-profile criminal cases as a reporter and in court.

One such case was the 1983 abduction of beer magnate Freddy Heineken. His book on the case was later made into a film starring Anthony Hopkins.

In 2016, De Vries filed a death threat complaint against one of the men involved in the kidnapping, notorious gangster Willem Holleeder.

He won an international Emmy for cracking the mystery of what happened to a US teen who disappeared from the Caribbean island of Aruba in 2005.

State broadcaster NOS reported that more recently, he had been acting as an advisor to Nabil B, a state witness testifying in a case against an alleged drug kingpin which opened in March.

Security around the case is extra-tight as in 2019, Nabil B’s lawyer Derk Wiersum was gunned down in the street outside his house.

© AFP 2021

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