Shooting of star Dutch reporter raises European concern

AMSTERDAM — European leaders and lawmakers expressed dismay Wednesday and rights advocates demanded justice after a veteran Dutch crime reporter was shot in the head in downtown Amsterdam following a TV appearance.

Peter R. de Vries, a journalist celebrated for his courageous reporting on the Dutch underworld, was fighting for his life in an Amsterdam hospital after the Tuesday night shooting.

Two suspects remained in custody Wednesday, while a third person detained Tuesday night was let go, according to a Dutch police statement. The motive for the attack was not disclosed.

Supporters brought flowers to the crime scene, still cordoned off by police.

The shooting shocked the Netherlands and prompted outrage from top Dutch officials, but it also struck a chord elsewhere in Europe, where such attacks are rare and where the killings of journalists in Slovakia and Malta in recent years raised concerns about reporters’ safety in developed, democratic societies.

“We might disagree with a lot we see in our media, but we have to agree that journalists investigating potential abuses of power are not a threat but an asset to our democracies and our societies,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told European Parliament lawmakers Wednesday.

European Council President Charles Michel called the shooting “a crime against our fundamental value of freedom of the press.”

De Vries, 64, had long been considered a possible target of the criminals he doggedly reported on. Police and prosecutors declined to comment on whether he received police protection.

De Vries won an International Emmy in 2008 for a television show he made about the disappearance of U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway while she was on holiday in the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba in 2005.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders expressed “full solidarity” with de Vries’ family and all Dutch journalists on Wednesday, and called for those responsible for the shooting to be brought to justice.

The commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, tweeted, “Everything should be done to bring perpetrator(s) and mastermind(s) of this horrific crime to justice and ensure #SafetyOfJournalists in #Europe.”