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Arson Attack Hits Home of Journalist in Netherlands

FILE PHOTO: A man looks on next to a makeshift altar at the place where Dutch celebrity crime reporter Peter R. de Vries was fatally shot in Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 7, 2021.

Unidentified attackers on Thursday threw Molotov cocktails into the Netherlands home of journalist Willem Groeneveld.

The motive for the attack, which took place in the city of Groningen around 2:45 a.m. local time, was not clear, but Groeneveld had previously been harassed over reporting on issues involving real estate and landlords.

No one was injured in the assault, and the journalist was cited in reports as saying he woke to the sound of breaking glass and was able to put out the fire.

Media organizations said they were troubled by the attack, which came just a month after veteran crime journalist Peter R. de Vries died after being shot in Amsterdam.

“This is a very sad year for journalism. This attack on Willem with a firebomb could have ended very differently,” Thomas Bruning, head of the Dutch Association of Journalists, told local media.

Thursday’s attack was not a first for Groeneveld, who founded the investigative website Sikkom and is a contributor to the daily regional newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden.

In 2019, attackers threw stones through the windows of the journalist’s home, and on another occasion someone posted Groeneveld’s address and phone number on Facebook. In June, about 30 bicycles were left outside the journalist’s apartment after he reported that a businessman had been removing bikes from around the city, according to local reports.

Police on Friday announced they had arrested two suspects on accusations of arson and attempted murder.

The Netherlands has one of the best records for press freedom, ranking 6th out of 180 countries, where 1 is freest, on the annual index by watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

But recent attacks and July’s fatal shooting are concerning rights groups, including the International Press Institute and European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

The arson “represents another serious attack on media freedom in the Netherlands,” several press freedom groups said in a joint statement.

“It is an attack on Willem Groeneveld, but also on the entire Dutch journalistic community.”

The media groups called for a “rigorous investigation” into what is behind the increase in attacks on journalists.

The Netherlands is not the only European Union member state to experience violence and fatal attacks on media this year.

In April, Greek police reporter Giorgos Karaivaz was killed outside Athens, in what authorities have said they believe was a contract killing.

The same month, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that police in Greece had arrested three people suspected of involvement in an alleged plot to kill investigative journalist Kostas Vaxevanis.