EDDIE LOGIN in The Hague (AFP) – Britain’s government has repeatedly tried to stamp out democratic dissent in the Dutch Republic, a country where the left-leaning government has been in power for more than half a century.
The British government has also blocked the release of parliamentary questions, blocked a Dutch parliamentary committee investigating the war crimes of the Netherlands in the 20th century and threatened to sue the country’s parliament for libel.
But the biggest blow came when Britain’s High Court in London ruled on Monday that the Dutch government cannot ban a Dutch newspaper, the Volkskrant, that was critical of its government and its president, Geert Wilders, over a planned rally in London.
Dutch justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff told AFP that the court was “a little bit crazy”.
“It’s the first time in Dutch history that the High Court has ruled on the independence of the media,” he said.
“It has a clear right to protect the freedom of speech.
But if the government doesn’t like what you say it has the right to prevent you from speaking.”
But Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) said the court’s decision was “totally unwise”.
“The government of the United Kingdom is the first in Europe to attempt to suppress freedom of expression,” PVV leader Karel De Gucht said.
Dutch Justice Minister Klaes Dijkhuis said the ruling was “not a judicial decision, but a legal one”, which would allow the government to use its powers to punish a newspaper or a politician for “failing to conform to a democratic order”.
“This is the beginning of a process that will be irreversible,” he added.
The court decision is “a slap in the face to democracy”, PVV spokesman De Guter said.
In the Netherlands, which is home to some 40 million people, free speech is guaranteed by a law enshrining the right of citizens to express themselves.
But critics of the country, which has been at the forefront of European anti-immigrant and anti-Islam sentiment in recent years, say its government has suppressed free speech by cracking down on media outlets critical of the government.
The ruling means that the government is free to block news organisations it considers to be critical of it, including the Volkskanter, a conservative newspaper.
The Volkskanters coverage of the war in Syria in 2014 led to a political storm in the country.
The government has denied that it has sought to censor news outlets and called for the publication of their stories.
The Dutch government said it was taking legal advice to decide how to respond.