Opening Statement minister Hoekstra Ministerial Meeting of the Media Freedom Coalition – Global Conference for Media Freedom Coalition 2022

Seven months ago, Dutch crime journalist Peter R. de Vries was murdered by ruthless criminals. One obituary suggested that his middle initial ‘R.’ stood for rechtvaardigheid, which means ’justice’. A keen observation showing that his death was a loss not just for his family and friends, but for the country. On that day the Netherlands lost a meticulous and dedicated seeker of justice and truth.

All over the world, media freedom and the safety of journalists are under pressure. And with that, truth and justice are under pressure. Nearby, in Belarus, and further away, in Myanmar and Mexico.

In the past five years, UNESCO has recorded 400 killings of journalists worldwide. Almost 9 out of 10 of these killings have gone unpunished. Impunity is allowing the cycle of violence to continue.

Meanwhile, journalists – particularly women – are increasingly subjected to countless other threats. Many women journalists face multiple forms of discrimination, and almost 75 per cent have experienced online gender-based violence.

These statistics show us urgent need to take the lead. To take a stand for media freedom. And to join forces with like-minded countries and partners.

For that very reason I would like to thank Estonia, and especially foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets, for hosting this important conference.

We are also grateful to the UK and Canada for initiating and advancing the Media Freedom Coalition. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of Dutch human rights policy, and we are honoured to take the baton from the UK.

Our work and priorities can be summarised in three words: prevent, protect and prosecute. We need to prevent attacks from happening. We need to protect journalists and media workers, particularly women. And we need to prosecute perpetrators. Because in the end, accountability is the ultimate form of prevention.

I strongly believe in the power of partnerships, in coalitions like ours that can push for change. As co-chair, we will commit to advancing our coalition.

By strengthening our diplomatic and advocacy activities, and by making full use of the diplomatic tools at hand. The findings of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts show us that there is still much work to be done.

In line with the Panel’s recommendations, the Netherlands will foster closer cooperation between UN Special Rapporteurs.  And we will also launch a 20 million euro emergency fund for journalists in distress, providing legal assistance and emergency support to journalists and media workers anywhere in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Any attack on a journalist is an attack on us all. Because an attack on these invaluable seekers of truth and justice is an attack on the very idea of truth and justice.

We cannot bow to violence and threats.
We must all stand up for media freedom and independent journalism.
We must all stand strong.
And take our cue from Peter R. de Vries, who lived by the motto: on bended knee is no way to be free.

I wish you a fruitful conference.