BY The Guardian

Dutch crime reporter dies nine days after shooting

The Dutch crime reporter Peter R de Vries has died just over a week after he was shot in the head in central Amsterdam, the veteran journalist’s family said in a statement released to local media.

“Peter fought to the end but was unable to win the battle,” the statement said, according to RTL Nieuws. “He died surrounded by the people who love him. Peter lived by his conviction: ‘On bended knee is no way to be free.’”

The statement continued: “We are proud of him beyond words, and at the same time inconsolable. His family, partner and loved ones want to process his death in peace and urge everyone to respect that.”

De Vries, a household name in the Netherlands, was shot five times – including at least once in the head – at about 7.45pm local time (1845 BST) on 6 July, while on his way to a car park on the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat after leaving a nearby TV studio. He was 64.

Two suspects were arrested on the A4 motorway soon after the shooting. A 35-year-old Pole identified as Kamil E is suspected of having driven the getaway car, police have said, and a 21-year-old Dutchman, Delano G, is the suspected gunman.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said on Thursday the journalist’s death was “almost impossible to comprehend”, describing De Vries as “dedicated, tenacious, afraid of nothing and no one. Always seeking the truth and standing up for justice. That makes it all the more dramatic that he himself has now fallen victim to a great injustice.”

Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, said: “Deeply saddened by the news of Peter R de Vries’ passing. Investigative journalists are vital to our democracies. We must do everything we can to protect them.”

De Vries became famous for reporting the kidnapping of the millionaire brewer Freddy Heineken in 1983. He had his own TV show for 17 years, working with victims’ families, pursuing unsolved cases and exposing miscarriages of justice.

The journalist, who had recently refused police protection after accepting it in the past following death threats, had since last year been acting as an adviser and confidant to the key prosecution witness against Ridouan Taghi, known as the Netherlands’ most wanted criminal.

Derk Wiersum, the lawyer for the witness known as Nabil B, was shot dead in the street shortly after leaving his house in Amsterdam two years ago, in a killing the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, described as “incredibly disturbing”.

Dutch media have reported that the suspected killer of De Vries was a nephew of one of Taghi’s henchmen, while according to Polish media the second suspect is wanted by police in his home country for robbery and theft.

The Dutch king, Willem-Alexander, and his wife, Máxima, last week expressed their deep shock at the attack. “Journalists must be able to do their important work freely and without being threatened,” the royal palace’s statement said.

Press freedom campaigners were equally forceful. The global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Thursday De Vries’s death showed Europe was “failing to protect its journalists”.

RSF spokeswoman Pauline Ades-Mevel said there had been “a distinct worsening since 2017”, while Christophe Deloire, the organisation’s secretary general, described the killing as “a new episode in a dark series in Europe”, adding: “Organised crime represents a major threat to journalism in the EU.”

The bloc has been rocked by several killings of investigative journalists and crime reporters in recent years.

Giorgos Karaivaz, who covered crime stories on the private Star TV channel in Greece, was hit by at least six shots from a 9mm pistol fired by the passenger of a motorbike outside his home in Athens in April, in what police called an execution-style killing.

The investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in Malta in 2017, four years after Ján Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kušnírová, were discovered shot dead outside their home in Slovakia.

Details of De Vries’s funeral will be announced later, his family said in its statement. RTL Nederland, whose show RTL Boulevard the journalist was recording minutes before the shooting, described his death as “an indescribably great loss”.

It said its thoughts were with “all who have been touched by his courage, humanity and determined fight for justice. Peter’s influence remains stronger than any act of hatred. We will continue to speak freely about abuses and injustices in society, as he has done all his life”.

From The Guardian: