Reader Post: Why Dutch Journalist Derk Walters Is Really Being Expelled From Israel
In order to guarantee freedom of the press, international rules have been drawn up that serve as a guideline. This is also the case in Israel. No journalists are above the law, not even Derk Walters of the NRC Handelsblad.
When Walters applied for an extension of his work permit, the Government Press Office requested certain information together with a standard application form. For reasons only known to Walters, no attention was given to this for 2 months.
However, Walters continued to report from Israel without a valid work permit. This did not seem to be an innocent or administrative mistake, when looking at the correspondence with NRC and several third parties, including the Volkskrant and NRC, which have published the position of NRC and/or Peter Vandermeersch.
In a letter from May 2, Peter Vandermeersch wrongly claimed that the decision not to extend Walters’ visa has been an attempt by Israel to interfere with the freedom of press.
Once NRC understood they wouldn’t be able to bypass the GPO through their diplomatic allies, they finally contacted the GPO directly; But when doing so, Derk Walters gave a fictional residential address in Tel Aviv in his visa application. Again, it was not a mistake but a calculated action. He actually lives in the Muslim Quarter of eastern Jerusalem (which is allowed for foreign journalists and there was no reason to lie about it), so he committed fraud by providing the wrong address. Neither Walters nor the NRC are above the law.
Conflict of Interest
Vandermeersch Vandermeersch further states that according to the GPO “the chief editor of NRC is also the director general of the company”. This is not true, according to VanderMeersch. However, according to the KVK (Chamber of Commerce) extracts of NRC Media Holding BV, it appears that Vandermeersch is in fact the chief editor and is also a director, or as KVK calls it “general director.”
Instead of complying with GPO rules and the various requests of the GPO to remedy the issues, Vandermeersch chose to exert diplomatic pressure. Vandermeersch threatened if he did not get his way, he would continue his pressure and publish the story – which he eventually did.
A number of media outlets have claimed that the GPO uses formal-legal violations of the NRC because of the alleged critical attitude of the contents of Derk Walters’ articles. Although we can’t deny the fact that the NRC is indeed biased and does not mention the Israeli side, the fact is that there is no precedent of another journalist not getting a work permit because of his or her opinions. Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN and even Israel’sHa’aretz are known to be more critical than the NRC, yet none of them have been called on. On the other hand, according to the GPO, several applications for pro-Israeli journalists were denied this year because they didn’t meet the GPO criteria. It is clear that NRC must be in line with local laws and regulations.
Contrary to what NRC claimed on May 3rd – that obtaining a first work permit and press card in Israel would take 3 months – it normally takes only a few days. An extension is even settled within a few hours in most cases. It is worth mentioning that in recent years, a request for extension has never been rejected – Walters is the one and only case in years and therefore any attempt by NRC or others to suggest a new Israeli policy is preposterous and stands contrary to the facts. Such an attempt widely exposes NRC’s anti-Israeli agenda.
According to the GPO, when the GPO recognizes a substantial deviation from the facts and from universal journalist ethics, they request a clarification accordingly. This is what happened with Walters’ case – through a few emails and one by face-to-face meeting. No connection was ever made between this and the visa status – neither with NRC nor with others, according to the GPO. NRC is desperately trying to make such a linkage, but it has no grounds for doing so. Such dialogues take place with most accredited news agencies in Israel and around the world.