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Research journalist De Winter followed more intensively than previously assumed

04 Jun 2014

NOTE: This is an English translation of this Dutch article, originally published by It was pretty tricky to translate, with all the government organizations and political terms and such, but I've done my best. Some clarification is added in [square brackets] in some places, for readers unfamiliar with the Netherlands.

Research journalist Brenno de Winter has found more evidence that shows he is being monitored by the Dutch government very intensively.

At the end of March, it already became clear that the Ministry of the Interior and police had illegally distributed personal information of Brenno de Winter (who works for, including his address.

From new information, requested from the Dutch police by De Winter, it has been revealed that an employee of the "dienst Bewaken & Beveiliging" (Royal security service) had reported a sighting of De Winter, because he was spotted at the front door of a building belonging to the service in The Hague.

"The security guard recognized the man as Brenno de Winter, from previous briefings", according to the document.

"De Winter was sitting with a laptop in his lap. The security guard saw that the laptop was running, and that De Winter was working on it. The security guard looked at De Winter, and observed that De Winter was taken by surprise and quickly looked down at his laptop." Following was a description of the appearance and clothing of De Winter, "like a picture of De Winter on Wikipedia".


In a response, De Winter lets us know that he was working on a column at that moment. "I never noticed that I was spotted by a security guard. It's bizarre that my job is apparently a reason for spotting and reporting me."

"My freedom of expression is apparently a reason to follow me", says De Winter. "That scares me. I didn't know we were already that far gone."

The personal information that was distributed in March, was included in a warning to employees of police and security guards of the ministry. It remarked that De Winter "is likely currently working on an article or report about the security of government organizations and services".

For his work, he would "likely try to enter terrains or buildings with non-correct identification papers."

Nuclear summit

With regards to that last fear of the ministry, a warning was also broadcast for the Nuclear Security Summit, a nuclear summit that was to be held in March in The Hague. "This with an eye on the NSS and the possibility that this individual [De Winter] will use this opportunity to carry out his job", according to the document.

Additionally, the document notes that De Winter was seen on January 28 near the Driebergen station [where the HQ of the National Police is located]. The National Police refused to comment on the matter.

De Winter: "Trying to keep me from doing my job can only be described with one word: sad. Apparently the organization of the summit didn't have much confidence in themselves."

From contacts in police circles, De Winter at the time received the advice not to request accreditation [a press pass]. "That would be better for me, they said." De Winter still has no idea what was meant by that remark.

House of Representatives

Schouw of D66 and Van Raak of the SP, both members of the Dutch House of Representatives, have asked questions in an attempt to obtain clarification from the Minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Opstelten, about the way in which De Winter was being followed by government services.

Some of the questions asked were regarding the legal basis on which the surveillance of journalists takes place, as well as how Opstelten justifies the violation of press freedom that is caused by monitoring journalists at work in the public space.

Lack of openness

De Winter will stick to his legal procedure, in an attempt to hear several representatives of the National Police about the campaign that was started against him. "That's simply because I lack other options", according to the research journalist.

"The police is not being transparent about this. With a mature opponent we would've already sat down to discuss this. But from the refusal of police to resolve the situation, it's clear that their view on the situation has apparently not changed."

National Federation of Journalists

Thomas Bruning, general secretary of the Dutch National Federation of Journalists (NVJ), lets us know that he considers it a serious matter that "Brenno de Winter is described as a half-criminal". "That makes you wonder what exactly the police is doing. Are they fighting symptoms, or are they trying to address the problems that he [De Winter] points out?"

Bruining calls it "concerning" that the police is targeting De Winter personally. "That gives him an unpleasant feeling. It's new evidence that the police is taking unreasonable steps. Procedures are used against people who are critical. It's a bad example to set, and it makes clear that they haven't learned from past mistakes."

The editor-in-chief of concurs with these statements of Bruning. A blog entry of Brenno de Winter about the matter can be found here [not translated].