The brazen attack on the famous crime journalist Peter de Vries has infuriated the public, with President of the European Council Charles Michel calling the act "a crime against journalism and an attack on our values of democracy", while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte described the shooting as "shocking and incomprehensible".
De Vries' colleagues and human rights activists were equally angered by the attempt on his life. The attack, with the obvious intent to kill the journalist, "outraged" Andy Vermaut of the International Alliance for the Defence of Rights and Liberties (AIDL). He underscores that the shooting affected not just Peter de Vries, but all of his colleagues.
"This is unfortunately an attack on all investigative journalists", Vermaut says.
The human rights activist stresses that the attempt on the journalist's life was carried out in a public place - in Leidseplein Square in the centre of Amsterdam - and that the perpetrators aimed for his head.
"Peter de Vries has dedicated his life to publicising crimes where sometimes others failed, he could often penetrate deeper because of his ties with the underworld and at the same time help from the Dutch government who eagerly passed on information to him", Andy Vermaut says.
The 6 July shooting is just the latest in a series of attacks against EU journalists, another human rights activist, Peter Tatchell, indicates. Tatchell recalls that several investigative journalists have been assassinated in Sweden, Ireland, and Malta in recent years. All these events are dissuading journalists, "who seek to expose corruption, organised crime, and human rights abuses", from continuing their work, the human rights activist concludes.
Risks Inherent to Profession
When you report something important, there is always a risk that you'll be targeted, Dutch investigative journalist and Sputnik columnist, Eric van de Beek, says. Van de Beek praises Peter de Vries as a "great crime reporter", someone who is "fearless, incorruptible, and above all highly intelligent", adding that now he is in hospital, the attack on him might make other journalists feel "less careless and free".
Due to his productive past as a crime journalist de Vries made a lot of enemies in criminal circles, AIDL member Andy Vermaut notes. Vermaut recalls that organised crime boss Ridouan Taghi, who was arrested in Dubai following de Vries' report about his involvement in drug trafficking and organising assassinations, was among the prime suspects. Taghi himself dismissed de Vries' claims of being on his hit list in 2019, noting that he had been a fan of the journalist's show when he was a boy.
"It is unfortunate that Peter de Vries received so little protection, knowing that organised crime had long wanted to get rid of him", Andy Vermaut says.
Even though the crime lord dismissed the allegation that he wanted de Vries dead, several other people related to the case against him have already died, Jan Van Benthem, foreign affairs commentator at Nederlands Dagblad notes. Among them are the brother of the main witness in the case and his lawyer, Benthem recalls.
"The Netherlands didn't have these kind of criminal assaults, but in recent years inter-criminal liquidations and etc. have increased, even as less violent criminality declined in many cities", the commentator says.
Hypocrisy of Global Leaders
The shooting of de Vries coincides with another attack on journalism: the UK granted the US "limited permission" to appeal a British district judge's decision to deny the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and some of their journalist-colleagues couldn't help but notice the difference in the attitude of government leaders to the two events.
While many of them expressed fury or regret over what happened to one famous journalist, none of them showed a hint of concern for Assange, who has spent almost a decade evading US punishment for his journalistic work, Paul Lookman, a Dutch journalist and editor of "Geopolitiek in Perspectief" notes. Lookman lambasts world leaders for being "cowards" and not standing up for Assange as they did for de Vries.