RNW Press Review - 20 March 2008

20th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

A review of today's press by Radio Netherlands.

RNW Press Review - 20 March 2008
by Mike Wilcox
It's rare for a writer's death to make the front pages, but that of the Belgian author, poet and artist, Hugo Claus, is today's top news.


The NRC Handelsblad says that, with his 30 plays and 12 novels, he was far and away the most lauded Dutch-language writer. In 1986 he added to his many Belgian prizes when he received the most prestigious award for Dutch literature from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. His works have been translated into many languages, and his most famous novel, The Sorrow of Belgium, is featured in the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics series.

De Volkskrant's front page is filled with a brooding black and white photo of Claus and reports that the 78-year-old was suffering from Alzheimer's. He chose the moment of his death, the paper informs us, dying by euthanasia in an Antwerp hospital. Apparently, the terrible pain suffered by his father before he died had made a lasting impression on him.

Trouw quotes Guy Verhofstadt who, on his last day as Belgian prime minister, said: "It saddens me to have to wish the master farewell. Because, in each of his books and poems, he was an emotional beacon in our dark world."
The mass-circulation daily, De Telegraaf, joins in the praise but, in an inside page, accents the man's personal side. Under the headline, "Hugo lived life to the full", it features a photo of the writer with the film star Sylvia Kristel taken in 1973. She was one of a number of women with whom he had relationships.

Red Ribbon
De Volkskrant covers the opening of the famous Keukenhof flower exhibition which this year has the theme of the Olympic Games. It shows a picture of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and the Chinese ambassador snipping a red ribbon in front of other dignitaries.

Members of the Chinese media were all smiles when chair of the Dutch Olympic committee, Erica Terpstra, managed "I am your friend" in Chinese. They were less enthusiastic, however, when she got onto Tibet: "We hope a peaceful solution will be found as soon as possible," she said in English.

The AD picks up on an advisory committee's recommendation that the Dutch Supreme Court re-open another case, this time a murder from 1987. The committee was set up following the discovery of a now infamous miscarriage of justice, where an innocent man was jailed for murder. It has looked at three suspect trials and has now reported that in all three cases the wrong person may have been convicted.

In the latest case, the committee reports that many aspects of the police investigation were flawed: the wrong time of death was even recorded. "This means a large number of the results of the investigation, for example alibis, are unsound," concludes the report.

Them and us
Nrc.next interviews the national ombudsman Alex Brenninkmeijer who is criticising the government for not trusting citizens enough. Last year, his office received 13,242 complaints about the service and treatment meted out by more than 500 government agencies.

He explains: "Politicians talk a lot about tough measures to tackle abuse, decisiveness. There's a huge emphasis on a small group who misbehave. That's how you create a them-and-us situation between the government and the people. The majority of citizens are perfectly decent. The government should be respectful and honest towards them."

On its front page, rather than brooding novelists, the AD prefers to feature a photo of a jovial Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. He is shown with his daughter Amelie in the Catshuis, the premier's rather grand official residence in The Hague.
However, a third figure is included in the group: it is the wax model of the prime minister which is ready to be displayed in Amsterdam's Madame Tussauds, and it really does look like him. The paper resists the temptation to suggest little Amelie is smiling to hide her confusion as to which one of the two really is her father.
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]

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