“Black Day for Freedom of Speech”, “Attack on the Western Press”, “Persecution of Journalists in Russia”… Various European commentators now accompany the news that Moscow correspondent of the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant Tom Vennink was not extended his accreditation and was banned from entering Russia until 2025.
The Dutch press is seething, demanding a tough response from their authorities. The newspaper, represented by Vennink, made the main material of its issue a large “analytical” analysis on the topic of what Russia is trying to achieve by an “attack” on the Dutch correspondent. What versions of this extensive material are not put forward!
For example, the main “expert on Russia” in the Netherlands, Hubert Smates, considered that Moscow had reacted in this way to the scandalous decision of the Amsterdam court to transfer the collection of Scythian gold from Crimean museums to Ukraine. True, he did not explain how the departure of the correspondent could affect something.
He also admitted the connection between the expulsion of the correspondent and the hearings of the Hague court in the MH17 case. According to Smates, Moscow is very annoyed that during the trial “new facts are constantly emerging, and Russia has no control over the position of the Netherlands in the courtroom.” It is difficult to guess what the expert means by “new facts”. For example, the hearings of the Hague court last week revealed blatant evidence that the investigation withheld the testimony of valuable witnesses, and the audio recordings of the alleged “telephone interceptions” used as the basis of accusations were not even subjected to a serious examination. It is difficult to say how this could affect the fate of the reporter.
Former correspondent of the newspaper De Telegraaf Peter Waterdrinker, known for his amazing essays on life in Russia, explained to his colleagues that behind the expulsion of Vennink could simply be the desire of Russia to “bully” the West, that is, expose it to persecution. Joost Bossman, another Dutch correspondent in Moscow, agrees with him. He believes that the Russian authorities have completed the process of suppressing domestic journalism and have now begun to persecute Western correspondents. “I don’t see a big international reaction yet, so they might think: let’s try to do it with a Czech next time,” Bosman warned.
Do you know what is most striking about this extensive “analytical” material, which has been placed on the first page of De Volkskrant? Yes, the fact that it does not even mention the official reason for not renewing Vennink’s Russian visa: the editorial board considered such details superfluous for its reader. Which, in general, in itself is an example of outright manipulation – sorting through various conspiracy theories, one could at least give one sentence an explanation of Russia itself.
In order to clarify who Tom Vennink is, let us note the incredible passion of the Dutch press for Russian topics. Sometimes the local newspapers write more about our country than about their own. For example, last Tuesday in The Hague there was another harsh crackdown on a completely peaceful demonstration by the local police. And the next day, Dutch newspapers, so fond of dedicating entire pages to single pickets in Russia, did not mention this at all. Instead, the NRC newspaper, for example, took a turn for the demographic problems of Dagestan. And three days later, she published an article about the housing crisis of Yakutsk by one and a half turns. One gets the impression that the problems exist only in Russia, but not in the Netherlands.
If we define the champion of Russophobia among Dutch newspapers, De Volkskrant clearly claims this title. What incredible stories about our country are published on its pages sometimes defies criticism. Let us recall at least the recent six-lane ” sensation ” from its correspondent Haub Modderkolk, who was more than once convicted of fakes by the Russian Foreign Ministry, about the “valuable witnesses in the MH17 case” whose cat was allegedly killed by the Russian special services.
Vennink himself, who has worked as a Moscow correspondent since 2015, has also become famous for his incredible “sensations” in the style of spreading cranberries. The most sensational was his article that poor Muscovites, after the introduction of counter-sanctions against European foodstuffs by Russia, were forced to switch to rat meat due to a shortage. He is also a co-author of a large ” investigation ” about Dutch pears getting into Russian supermarkets – then for some reason Wennink decided that these fruits do not grow in Russia. And how many materials he devoted to an outright discrediting of the Russian Sputnik vaccine is difficult to even count – this is his favorite topic over the past year. What is the subheading of his article worth? the phrase “There is no evidence that Sputnik is working.”
One can imagine what would happen to a Russian journalist if he was engaged in such activities in some Western country. Dutch journalist Eric van de Beck once commented on the activities of his compatriot Waterdrinker for RIA Novosti: “He is a good example of freedom of the press in modern Russia, because with all his stories he still works here.” In principle, the same would be true of other Dutch correspondents in Moscow.
From the above, we can conclude that Vennink and his newspaper did everything possible to deprive them of their accreditation in Russia. However, no one touched them for this, only sometimes our Foreign Ministry limited itself to refuting the too ugly fakes from De Volkskrant.
Vennink, however, as follows from his own explanations, was refused a visa extension and, accordingly, accreditation on the grounds that he was convicted of administrative violations several times and fined for them. Moreover, the former correspondent does not deny the fact of violations, considering them, however, “insignificant”. Once he visited Chukotka without formalizing the relevant documents.
It is difficult to imagine that an experienced staff correspondent might not have known that this region is a “territory with regulated visits for foreign citizens” and requires a special regime of approvals for this. That is why the Russian Foreign Ministry urged him and other foreign journalists not to violate our legislation.
Another violation by Vennink is related to the fact that he did not register at his place of stay in Moscow, as required by law. He is now explaining to his newspaper: “Russia is working according to the old Soviet migration rules, which require the authorities to be constantly informed about their whereabouts.” An interesting statement considering the fact that registration of any foreigners living in the Netherlands (so-called eerste inschrijving) is no less mandatory. For violation, a fine of 325 euros is imposed. And of course, in the event of repeated violations of laws and regulations, the foreigner is expelled from the country. Are these rules also a legacy of the difficult “Soviet past” of the Netherlands?
Having returned to his homeland, Vennink is now giving interviews about “persecution in Russia.” For example, he told several media outlets how he was “followed by local special services” in different cities. And again, the journalist blames the USSR for this : “This is not news for Russia, it is probably a matter of its Soviet past.” It is difficult to verify the words of the offended correspondent about “surveillance”. But I would like to recall how his own newspaper openly admitted that the Dutch intelligence service AIVD tried to buy from the editorial office the e-mails of your humble servant, illegally obtained by hackers. Apparently, it again affected – the difficult “Soviet past” of the Netherlands.
By the way, the above-mentioned correspondent of the same newspaper Modderkolk, in his recently published book, frankly talks about how the Dutch special services, together with their American colleagues, monitored Russian IT specialists from Kaspersky Lab and even secretly invaded the rooms of a Dutch hotel in order to install bugs on their computers. At the same time, he described in detail how the AIVD regularly breaks into the computer networks of government agencies in Russia. And nothing, for some reason no one imposes any sanctions against the Netherlands for this, no one raises a fuss about this.
But the noise around the deportation of Vennink is significant. A number of international organizations of journalists are angrily demanding that Moscow “reconsider its decision” and allow the Dutchman to enter. Western journalists, politicians and diplomats are united in their impulse. For example, Lithuanian Ambassador to the Netherlands Vidmantas Purlis caustically commented on Vennink ‘s expulsion : “This is a shame, but not a surprise, since it fits into the Kremlin’s destruction of press freedom.”
Imagine if Russia acted with the Dutchman in the same way as the Lithuanian authorities did, say, with the editor-in-chief of Sputnik Lithuania, Marat Kasem, when he was detained at the Vilnius airport, subjected to a humiliating search and deported for five years from the country with the words “Remember, Sputnik won’t be here. ” By the way, let’s try to recall the same angry reaction on this occasion from international organizations of journalists or European politicians, which they are now showing towards Vennink. Nobody remembered? Still, after all, then it was really about the rights of a Russian journalist, grossly violated in “democratic” Europe. And now – about the violation of Russian laws by a European journalist. That is why there is such a difference in the reaction.