"Officials tried to manipulate news"

5th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

5 November 2007, AMSTERDAM - Dutch government officials tried to manipulate stories carried by the independent Dutch news agency GPD, it was reported Monday.

5 November 2007

AMSTERDAM - Dutch government officials tried to manipulate stories carried by the independent Dutch news agency GPD, it was reported Monday.

"Apparently there are several higher officials who have no objection to such practises," Marcel van Lingen, director and editor- in-chief of the GPD, was reported as saying Monday in newspapers using the news service.

On Saturday the GPD news agency, which provides news to many regional and local printed press in the Netherlands, announced its computer had been hacked into for over a year by civil servants of the social affairs ministry.

The civil servants were both former GPD employees who used the username and password of a former colleague to break into the GPD computer system. This gave them access for over a year to unpublished stories, as well as to the news service's internal agenda.

On Monday morning newspapers using the GPD news service published a report that said the top spokesman of the social affairs ministry used the secret access to the GPD computer system to manipulate news the agency published about the Dutch redundancy laws.

The new Dutch redundancy policy is one of the most sensitive topics in the Netherlands today. The current government, which took office early 2007, wants to enable companies to get rid of its employees more quickly, with less expense.

The GPD first discovered that the social affairs ministry was hacking its computer system on 19 October. That day, a GPD journalist sent the communication department of the ministry a story about the latest developments in the government's new redundancy policy. He requested the spokesman to verify a few facts.

The spokesman, however, did not reply. After the deadline had passed the journalist sent the story to the GPD editors, who prepared it to put on the wire. Before the story was officially published, the ministry's chief spokesman suddenly called the GPD to respond to the story.

Interestingly, the spokesman did not react to the version he had been e-mailed many hours before, but to the yet unpublished and re-edited version. The civil servant refused to disclose how he had obtained the story. "I cannot say anything about that," he allegedly told the GPD.

The social affairs ministry has meanwhile requested the public prosecutor to investigate the affair.

[Copyright dpa 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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