RNW Press Review - 7 March 2008

7th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

A roundup of today's press from Radio Netherlands.

RNW Press Review - 7 March 2008 by David Doherty
Several of today's papers carry the news that the Netherlands is one step closer to being on full terrorist alert. The Dutch government now regards the threat to the nation as "substantial", one phase below the highest level "critical".

Trouw quotes National Coordinator for Combating Terrorism, Tjibbe Joustra, who describes the reason behind the decision in rather veiled and abstract terms as "a threat from new trends and phenomena".

The paper reckons that the anti-Muslim film by right-wing politician Geert Wilders is the main contributing factor but there is also mention of "recruitment and radicalisation on a considerable scale" and the fact that the Netherlands has been "regularly named in declarations by terrorist networks which should be taken seriously".

Deeply offensive
NRC Handelsblad features an interview with a "very sad" Geert Wilders, disappointed by the news that no television station is prepared to show his controversial film Fitna in full. "I had hoped that one TV station would say: you have the right to do this and we will give you the platform." He describes it as "a wonderful film, that stays 100 kilometres within the limits of the law."

Trouw's cartoonist seems to think that all the fuss being made about the film by the Dutch government might be contributing to the threat. The cartoon shows Prime Minster Jan Peter Balkenende standing on a stool, megaphone in hand, announcing "Muslims of all nations. A deeply offensive film is coming your way soon!! I repeat ..."

Overwhelming response
AD interviews Dutch swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband about the response to a recent column in which he called on the chairman of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge to speak out about human rights in China ahead of this summer's Beijing Games.

According to the paper, the three-time Olympic champion is surprised by the overwhelming response. "I get the idea that my words have had an explosive impact".

He hopes his comments will help his fellow athletes who are continually being asked what they think about human rights in China and will "prevent them bringing themselves into disrepute by saying something they might regret later."

The impact on the IOC itself remains difficult to gauge. The organisation issued a curt reply repeating its official position that "the Olympic Games in Beijing will have a positive effect on society in China".

"As an Olympic champion, I have taken my responsibility and spoken my mind," says Van den Hoogenband but he still has sympathy for the officials: "One thing's for sure: I'm glad I'm a sportsman and not the head of the IOC".

Darfur 2020
There's a different slant on the Olympics in today's de Volkskrant. The University of Ghent in Belgium has been personally slapped on the wrist by IOC chairman Jacques Rogge about their current advertising campaign. Under the slogan "Dare to think" it features a spoof flag for the Darfur 2020 Olympics, complete with the Olympic rings.

A university spokesman is at pains to point out that "Our advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi say they had permission to use the Olympic rings, but if the IOC objects ... then we are prepared to withdraw the ad."

University rector Paul Van Cauwenberghe insists: "It's all a big misunderstanding. We never intended to offend anyone ... All we wanted to do with our posters was to get students thinking ... And it looks like we achieved our objective."

Raving mad
De Telegraaf is getting all hot and bothered about a report advising the police to turn a blind eye to sexual encounters between gay men in the country's parks. The report, fetchingly entitled "Blue in the pink meeting place", advises the boys in blue "not to interrupt the gay men's activities as long as they are not disturbing the peace".

The paper quotes Dutch gay rights organisation, the COC, as saying "Cruising has always been around. Banning it won't work. And a lot of gay men get attacked in these places ... at least now they'll be safer."

Residents near Amsterdam's Vondelpark interviewed by De Telegraaf will take some convincing, it seems. "Amsterdam has gone raving mad!" is the headline, accompanied by a photo of a condom hanging out of a park litter bin. "This way you're only attracting more perverts ... bah!" says local resident Ria, who seems to be very upset by the whole thing: "Woe betide you if you let your dog off the leash in the park, but they are allowed to drop their pants with impunity."

The paper also interviews 66-year-old Eddy, out feeding the ducks with his granddaughter Lois: "I'm no prude. But this is going way too far. Before you know it they'll be having it off in the bushes while I'm out for a stroll with my granddaughter. It's asking for trouble."

Reckless driving
Today's papers also cover the verdict in the trial of Germaine C., a woman who killed a Moroccan youth who stole her handbag by reversing into him with her car. She was sentenced to 180 hours of community service yesterday, though prosecutors wanted her jailed for 2.5 years. The court ruled she should only be convicted of "extremely reckless driving".

The case had already attracted a storm of media attention, some people claiming the accused was the victim, others that she intended to kill the boy. AD reports how former Integration Minister Rita Verdonk, now an MP in the process of setting up her own party, turned up at court yesterday to have her say in front of the cameras.

"If the lad hadn't stolen the bag, he'd still be riding around on his scooter and this woman would be sitting at home," she exclaimed. "She was only trying to get her bag back. Nine out of ten people would have done the same thing." A member of the right-wing Freedom Party even went so far as to say Germaine C. deserved a medal for her actions.

The leader of the D66 Democrats, Alexander Pechtold, is concerned about what he sees as politicians cashing in on the case:

 "It's not up to the politicians to pronounce legal judgements. Laws are changed in parliament, not in the courtroom."

[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008] 

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