Status: Free
Legal Environment: 3
Political Environment: 7
Economic Environment: 4
Total Score: 14

Freedom of expression is safeguarded under Article 7 of the Dutch constitution, with a free and independent media operating throughout the country. In 2009, a Dutch court ruled that the Associated Press should pay €1,000 ($1,400) every time they published pictures of the royal family on vacation, with a maximum fine of €50,000 ($70,250), but these rules are rarely enforced. The Netherlands lacks specific national legislation ensuring the rights of journalists to protect their sources; however, in a landmark decision in September 2010, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously ruled that media premises are exempt from police searches, and that police may not seize journalistic materials unless they obtain a warrant. The case that generated the ruling, Sanoma Uitgevers v. the Netherlands, arose after Tonie Broekhuijsen, the editor of Autoweek, was detained and forced to hand over photographs of a street race that was under investigation in 2002. In September, the case against cartoonist Gregorious Nekshot, who was arrested in 2008 for publishing anti-Muslim cartoons in 2005, was dropped. However, in August, a Dutch Muslim group was fined €2,500 ($3,200) for publishing a cartoon that suggested the Holocaust had been exaggerated. The group claims that it printed the cartoon to point out the double standard in free speech in the Netherlands.

Journalists in the Netherlands practice self-censorship, particularly over sensitive issues such as immigration and religion; this has increased since the 2004 murder of the controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh. In October 2010, the trial of Geert Wilders, a prominent politician charged in connection with making anti-Islam comments on the campaign trail, was postponed due to concerns over the judge's impartiality. The judge had met with a potential witness to try and convince him to testify against Wilders for inciting hatred against Muslims. Wilders's trial, which had begun in October 2009, had not resumed at year's end. Physical attacks or intimidation directed against journalists is rare.

Newspaper ownership is highly concentrated in the Netherlands, with three companies owning more than 90 percent of paid newspapers. In September 2010, the three public broadcasters – NPS, Teleac, and RVU – merged. Despite high ownership concentration, there are a variety of opinions expressed in the media. The state allocates public radio and television programming to political, religious, and social groups according to their membership. While every province has at least one public television channel, public broadcasting has faced stiff competition from commercial stations since such stations became legal in 1988. The Netherlands has faced similar financial difficulties as other European Union nations in the wake of the global economic crisis, with job cuts and loss of advertising revenues. The internet is not restricted by the government, and it was used by 91 percent of the population in 2010.

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