Dutch news in brief, Friday 24 July 2009

24th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

De Telegraaf celebrates victory over secret service
De Telegraaf devotes their front page to their court battle with the Dutch secret service AIVD.

The headlines deliver a triple whammy to the spy masters: "Judge calls a halt to AIVD", "Tapping of journalists must end" and "Minister ter Horst called to heel".

On Thursday, the paper won an injunction against the secret service that tapped journalists' phones and keep them under surveillance after De Telegraaf went public with sensitive information on the Dutch participation in the Iraq war, among other things.

De Telegraaf also reports the prospect of the Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst coming under fire in parliament for approving the AIVD's surveillance tactics in the first place. "She signed on the dotted line on four separate occasions ... It looks like the secret service has her on a leash ... The minister has a lot of explaining to do."

De Telegraaf trumpets its legal victory as "a triumph for freedom of speech" and declares that the secret service has received "a firm slap on the wrist".

This opinion is shared by the associations representing Dutch editors and journalists, who joined forces with the paper in the case.

"In a democracy, the secret service shouldn't be spying on journalists. It should reserve that kind of strong-arm tactics for saving lives and hounding terrorists," said Arendo Joustra, head of the editors' association.

 The other papers report of things didn't go De Telegraaf's way.

The ban on phone tapping may yet be overturned and in a separate ruling, the authorities' raids on a journalist's home were upheld as justified.

Severed head of Ghanaian king to go home
All papers feature a remarkable ceremony that took place in The Hague Friday. Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen officially handed over the severed head of a tribal monarch to a delegation from Ghana.

King Badu Bonsu II of the Ahanta tribe was executed for the killing of two Dutch envoys on the Gold Coast in 1838 and his head was taken to the Netherlands where it was preserved in formaldehyde and became part of a scholarly collection at Leiden University Hospital.
The head itself was kept discreetly behind closed doors during the ceremony, which de Volkskrant refers to as "the ritual closure of a dark episode".

The paper describes this meeting of two worlds: "The Ghanaian delegation, bare shouldered and swathed in scarlet and black robes, stood shoulder to shoulder with the civil servants from the Foreign Office ... a department where wearing brown shoes is frowned upon as ostentatious."

Trouw reports that emotions ran high among the Ghanaian group. "This is very important to us," one representative insisted. "Someone who has been beheaded is not complete in the next life." A great-great-grandson of the king lamented: "Why did you take his head? It makes me intensely sad to see him here like this."

Minister Verhagen seems to have done his best to show how contrite the Dutch are about this episode in their colonial past. He spoke of "a regrettable and shameful" period in relations between the Netherlands and Ghana and insisted: "We need to know that our forefathers can rest in peace."

The ritual was sealed by sprinkling alcohol on the floor in accordance with Ghanaian tradition.

"It's for every river the spirit has to cross," explained the Ghanaian head of delegation.

"With all the water between the Netherlands and Ghana, this journey requires a lot of jenever."

Nijmegen participants march on through rain and flu
Taking part in the world's largest walking event is never a picnic but the participants in this year's International Four-Day Marches in Nijmegen are having more than their fair share to put up with.

De Telegraaf sums up the ordeal with the ominous headline "Flu walks among them" above a front-page photo of hundreds of soaked and bedraggled walkers. 

On the third day, the walkers battled through "rain, rain and yet more rain" despite news that a British soldier who was taking part had come down with swine flu as they clinged to assurances that the danger of infection was minimal.

Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica

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