Word of welcome by Jan van Zanen at the European Federation of Journalists Annual Meeting, 11 May 2023
A very warm welcome to The Hague.
Where we are honoured to be hosting the Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Journalists.
The Hague is definitely not a bad choice, if I may say so.
The Hague has a distinctly European profile.
It was here that cooperation in Europe began with the Congress of Europe in 1948.
As the nation’s seat of government and its parliament, the press has always taken a keen interest in The Hague.
A healthy democracy, whether national or local, cannot exist without a free press.
The scrutinising role of the press is vital to the existence of a democracy.
For good reason Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins with the words:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”.
Unfortunately, journalists are not only threatened worldwide, but also murdered.
The NGO Committee to Protect Journalists reports that at least 67 journalists died last year as a result of violence.
That is 50 percent more than the year before.
Truly, a dismal record.
The same applies to the extremely difficult circumstances under which journalists in Russia, for example, have to work.
For them too, it is precisely as in the title of your meeting:
They have to Fight for the Right to Report.
As the city that includes the words ‘peace and justice’ in its coat of arms, The Hague is committed to promoting journalistic freedom.
We start with this at local level.
By subsidising ‘Luis in De Pels’ (roughly, thorn in the side), for example, an independent foundation which provides financial support to local media, editors and individual journalists.
So that they can examine local democracy.
But we are active internationally, too.
As a Shelter City, for example, The Hague provides refuge for human rights defenders facing persecution.
To give them respite.
Over the next three years, The Hague will be providing additional capacity for persecuted journalists.
Dictators, as you know, are afraid of just one thing: free speech.
Where people can express themselves freely and have unhindered access to information, dictatorships do not stand a chance.
That is why freedom of the press is so vitally important.
It is the oxygen of a free, inclusive and diverse society.
And journalists who find themselves in peril therefore deserve our unconditional support and solidarity.
And whether near or far, we must always be vigilant to safeguard the future of press freedom.
The Hague will always strive to do so.
And in that spirit, I wish you an inspiring meeting.