Far-Right Dutch Politician Loses Fight Against News Outlet

LELYSTAD, The Netherlands (CN) — A Dutch court ruled Wednesday that a TV news program does not have to correct itself for paraphrasing racially charged remarks made by a far-right politician.

“It is important that the [Dutch public broadcaster] VPRO also has freedom of expression,” Central Netherlands Court Judge Remco Hoekstra said in a statement after the decision was handed down.

An election poster showing Thierry Baudet, left, and Theo Hiddema from the Forum for Democracy party is displayed in a park in Amsterdam in March 2017. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

“Thierry Baudet caused a stir in the House of Representatives last week by saying that he thinks the EU has a preconceived plan to replace the white European race with African immigrants,” TV presenter Natalie Righton said a month ago on the Sunday afternoon program “Buitenhof.”

She was speaking on the Feb. 23 broadcast to Baudet’s political party co-founder, Henk Otten. The two politicians formed the Forum for Democracy, or FvD, in 2015. The party is broadly anti-immigration, skeptical of the European Union and in favor of lower taxes.

Baudet, a member of the Dutch parliament, called Righton’s remarks outrageous and demanded a retraction.

She was paraphrasing remarks he made during a debate in parliament in which he said, according to the official transcripts, that the European Union was setting up ferry services “to transfer immigrants from Africa to Europe, to weaken national identities so that there will be no more nation-states.”

VPRO refused to issue a correction, saying in a statement: “The choice of words for that question is a correct paraphrasing of both the statements of Thierry Baudet and the way in which these statements were interpreted.”

On Wednesday, the Lelystad-based Central Netherlands Court agreed that although Righton had used three words Baudet had not – “white,” “race,” and “replace” – the sentiment was similar, both to what Baudet said during that debate and also in other statements.

“Moreover,” the court added, “the presenter’s question can be seen as a contribution to the public debate.”

VPRO applauded the ruling.

“We are pleased that the judge has agreed with us and concludes that Buitenhof has rightly made the link with previous statements by Baudet,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

FvD expressed disappointment in the ruling but said it will not appeal in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Due to the corona crisis, we are currently fully concentrating on our political work,” the political party said.

The Netherlands is currently under restrictive measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. Baudet’s case was heard before the measures were put in place, including limited movement and the closing of schools and restaurants. Courts in the country are still issuing rulings and holding hearings for the most important cases.

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