Killing of Dutch Journalist ‘Must Not Lead to Violence and Intolerance’ Says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists today joined with free expression groups worldwide in condemnation of the “brutal and chilling” murder of controversial Dutch film-maker and columnist Theo Van Gogh.

Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death yesterday as he cycled in broad daylight through an Amsterdam street. Two knives were left in his body, one pinning a note to his chest, said by Dutch media to contain lines from the Koran. He had received death threats after his film ‘Submission’, which had triggered an outcry from Dutch Muslims, was shown on Dutch TV.

“Although not predominantly known as a journalist, Van Gogh’s work was steeped in robust and challenging opinions which are at the very core of free speech,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “He is only the eight journalist to be targeted and killed in Western Europe in the last ten years.”

The police are holding a man, aged 26, with dual Dutch and Moroccan citizenship, in custody. According to reports, the suspect is alleged to have "radical Islamic fundamentalist convictions”. The IFJ says that the killing raises fears of a backlash that could lead to new community tensions, which would be a tragic consequence.

“Free expression depends upon non-violence and tolerance,” said White. “We hope that the outspoken spirit of Van Gogh is not used by undemocratic forces to foment trouble in the community.”

The IFJ is supporting its Dutch affiliate, the Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ), whose General Secretary Hans Verploeg said that, “this is a black moment for free expression and represents the first journalist to be killed on Dutch territory since World War Two.”

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries