Arresting (photo)journalists is a sign of weakness

When I started as a photojournalist I always saw myself traveling around the world, showing what was going on. Not only the spot news, but more the news behind it. In the end I stayed mostly in The Netherlands. Partly because I didn’t have funding to travel, but mainly because in someway it frightened me to go abroad without any security. At home I look at photographers and journalists working abroad and admire them. Without showing any fierce, they tell the world what is really happening. One of those journalists is the Dutch Fréderike Geerdink, who faces charges now in Turkey.

She isn’t the first (photo)journalist who has to go to court for doing the job they do and unfortunately she won’t be the last either. Her case is a typical example of a government which doesn’t want that the truth to be told. That is the only thing Geerdink is doing. She’s writing on a delicate subject in Turkey, the Kurdish matter. And she is doing her work very well. If you read her excellent Dutch book ‘De jongens zijn dood’ (soon available in Turkish as well) you’ll notice she is interested in facts, not in telling the opinions of one of the sides. That is what every (photo)journalist has to do. Research a topic and putting the facts in a context.

It is ridiculous that the journalist Geerdink has a change to go to jail for five years. The charges are ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organization’. If she’s doing anything, it is not making propaganda. It is so easy to put the messenger away, but actually with doing that you admit the journalist is right. If you are a powerful leader, why are you so afraid of a journalist? Sure, you may not like the stories told by (photo)journalists, if you are strong you can deal with it. I have to think about the story my history teacher at high school told me about the tsaar who killed the protesters instead of accepting the petition they wanted to offer. By accepting he would be satisfying the protesters, now he got in bigger problems.

Arresting (photo)journalists is a sign of weakness. It’s putting your head in the sand and thinking the problem has been solved. But you can’t hide for the truth. Actually by arresting journalists you put more attention on the subject the journalist is working on. And believe me, most journalists luckily won’t stop doing their jobs after getting arrested. Geerdink is one of those who will continue to search for the real stories. And instead of being send to jail, she and her colleagues should be respected for it. Keep them out of the prisons, (photo)journalists belong on the streets.

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