RNW Press Review – Wednesday 26 March 2008
A roundup of today's press from Radio Netherlands.
RNW Press Review – Wednesday 26 March 2008 – by Mike Wilcox
Most of today's front pages feature a terrifying picture: an articulated lorry has skidded in yesterday's snow and the cab is dangling precariously over the side of a high motorway bridge. "I'm hanging off the A2, but everything else is OK", reads the AD's headline.
That was one of the more than 130 accidents NRC Handelsblad tells us. Its headline will strike a chord with many people this morning: "A bit of snow and the country stops". The paper says there were the second worst traffic jams ever, and much of the train network was disrupted for hours on end. The chaos caused huge damage to the economy. "How is this possible?" asks the paper.
A meteorologist says "the snow didn't even really stick". A traffic organisation spokesman explains that drivers left more space between cars. "This prevents accidents but causes jams," he says. However, he was surprised that people failed to use all the available lanes despite the fact that they had all been gritted. "So the snow just stayed put. You can only counter snow with salt and wheels," he tells us.
A motorist is scathing: "People just don't know how to drive in snow anymore. There's been so little snow over the last few years. They get scared and immediately start braking. It's not necessary," he fumes. A road organisation spokesman thinks it is down to the huge number of cars on the roads: "You only need one thing to happen and everything stops," he theorises.
Trouw resists the temptation to put that terrifying photo on its front page this morning. Instead it covers the sentence handed down to a couple found guilty of plotting terrorist attacks against politicians. They got three years despite the prosecution only asking for one year because the couple had turned prosecution evidence against the other conspirators.
However, the judges found the offences "too serious" for such a lenient sentence. The judgement read: "The crimes planned were designed to target the heart of Dutch democracy and sow real fear in the population". The court said the sentence would have been even higher if there had been no mitigating circumstances.
Although right-wing MP Geert Wilders' anti-Qur'an film Fitna hasn't even been shown yet, it never seems to be out of the news. De Volkskrant reports that former foreign minister Hans van den Broek is calling on the government to try and have it banned through the courts. "Let judges decide which is more important: freedom of speech or the national interest," he argues.
Meanwhile, in nrc.next, we are told that Mr Wilders' PVV party is angry at Radio Netherlands Worldwide for producing its own anti-Fitna film, About Fitna, the Netherlands and Wilders. The PVV is calling for RNW's subsidy to be cut.
Nrc.next also covers today's teachers strike. They are demonstrating in The Hague for better pay and against the raising of the age, at present 52, when they can work reduced hours. One teacher is quoted as saying: "This is the moment. If we let them walk all over us now, it'll never come right."
Strangely enough, the AD has a front-page piece on a trial project in Rotterdam and The Hague whereby retired teachers are asked to return to the profession. Over 400 former teachers have said that they would like to work again. The trial is designed to answer the shortage of secondary-school teachers in much of the Netherlands. One of its organisers is pleased. "It's a great success;" she crows, "registrations are streaming in".
De Telegraaf's front page does feature the stricken-lorry photo but its headline reads: "Settle your own sick pay". However, it's not as bad as the mass-circulation daily's headline suggests. Apparently, the biggest umbrella organisation for employers in medium and small businesses wants only certain cases of long-term illness not to be covered by sick pay.
A spokesman explains: "We don't see why a small firm should be crippled just because two employees have broken their legs while on skiing holidays." The idea is that staff would have to take out insurance to cover sickness caused by out-of-work activities.
De Volkskrant has held a survey, asking a "representative group of 1069 people" 20 multiple-choice questions based on the primary school history syllabus. The average score was a measly 5.2, with only 54 percent knowing which century is considered the Dutch Golden Age and a tiny 17 percent able to say that the Netherlands finally became a kingdom in the 19th century.
The paper also posed more controversial questions. These led to 56 percent of those questioned naming Islam as a threat to the Dutch identity, while 57 percent said the admission to the country of large groups of immigrants was the biggest mistake in Dutch history.
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]