Freedom of the Press in Holland

Freedom House published its state of the world “Freedom of the Press 2014”. Freedom of the press does not necessarily mean that people are informed correctly. An important paragraph for us is:

The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden were rated the world’s top-performing countries, with overall scores of 10. In these nations, citizens enjoy strong legal protections for the press and access to diverse content in the print, broadcast, and internet spheres, and governments and societies demonstrate respect for media freedom and editorial independence. However, all three countries, as well as other Scandinavian nations, have struggled in recent years to regulate hate speech without imposing onerous legal restrictions.” (link)

Score 0 means that you are fully free. Score 100 means that you are under mind control by the supreme leader, who may also be a lady like Catherine the Great. Holland scores 10 out of 100, which still is fairly high.

I haven’t looked deeply into the standards and methodology, and I hope that you forgive me for that. This would be a new research area and soon you might get lost in fundamental philosophical issues on freedom. Newspapers, media, journalists: this industry developed its own codes of honour that still evolve under the influence of technology and new habits and so on.

The measurement methodology apparently looks at Attacking the messenger, Targeting foreign media, Clamping down on new media, Controlling content via ownership, and so on. While freedom is already complex, there seem to be many more ways to clamp down.

Still, there is a difference between press freedom and the issue of reporting correctly. We may not presume that a “free press” abides to truthful reporting. We may not presume that it isn’t subject to biases and taboos itself.

In Holland, the press has not been reporting about the censorship of science by the directorate of the Central Planning Bureau since 1990. Thus the general public has been disinformed. I suppose that the press has been free to report but each journalist whom I contacted decided that it was a non-issue. Apparently they already knew what the censored results were – while they couldn’t know because of the censorship. They decided that “this isn’t news”. If they had reported on the censorship, it would have been news, however. As a scientist I think that the readership and the audience should be informed and that the journalist should not decide for them.

The CPB directorate provides the annual economic forecast upon which the national budget is based, and it has a high standing in society. A single employee forms only 1% of the scientific staff and might quickly be disregarded, especially when he claims new findings that he cannot show. But you can only disregard it by bias and taboo. To disregard it is unscientific. Dutch journalists apparently are not aware of this. They are at comfort however with high bureaucratic and formal academic positions that make for easy reporting.

The best way to test this is that Dutch parliament has a full enquiry in which witnesses are under oath. The best way for the world to achieve this is to boycott Holland till the censorship is lifted, optimally by such enquiry.

The reader might think that all of this is focused too much on my own person and case. Lets diversify. The Cabinet appointed as new CPB director a person without a track record in scientific research in economics. She has a MA in economics and a MA in public management and a career within the state bureaucracy but not in scientific research. But the work of the CPB is based in science, econometrics. See my earlier weblog entry. How does the Dutch press deal with this ? They report that she has an independent state of mind. This might well be accurate, but it is not the issue. A scientific attitude implies independent thinking, but not conversely. Her independent thinking might well concern some illusions that she cannot judge upon because of her lack of experience in science. (For example, she might think that there is no censorship of science at CPB since 1990, which is my case again, but there can be other issues.) The Dutch press disinforms its readership and audience.

Freedom House put out a report that can be misleading w.r.t. the more relevant question whether people are informed correctly. Holland might have “press freedom” but the readership and audience are not informed correctly, and crucially about the censorship of science. It would be better that Freedom House also lists the observed protests in Holland about the press.

If you want to read further, see my email to the international news ombudsmen, while w.r.t. “controlling content via ownership” check why I don’t blog at the Financial Times. Dutch readers may check that the Netherlands Press Council is illogical, prejudiced and incompetent w.r.t. the reporting on censorship of science.

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