THE HAGUE--The media play an important role, especially in times of crisis. However, it is up to the governments of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten to decide whether media companies receive financial support.
Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops stated after Friday’s Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting that the countries make their own choices which sectors receive government support and which do not.
“The talks with the countries are ongoing and a number of measures are certainly being attuned, but it concerns autonomous countries. We will be making agreements on budget support and the reform that is necessary, but we are not getting involved in the decisions of the countries about where the money goes,” Knops told the Amigoe and The Daily Herald newspapers.
He said that the talks with the countries mostly concentrate on the reform that is necessary, but not about government support for specific sectors such as the media. “We discuss the need for good governance and a well-functioning state of the law,” he said, noting that the media play a role in those aspects. “However, we have to stay away from mentioning what should and what shouldn’t happen for specific subjects. I think there is little difference of opinion about the importance of the media, but in these times the pressure is so great that you ask yourself ‘who doesn’t get in trouble.’”
Apart from this, Knops acknowledged that the media play a vital role, especially in a time of crisis. “Independent journalism is very important. The media play a key role in the system in a democracy – clarifying, revealing, informing, especially during these times, the things that we do need to be communicated well.”
It became clear earlier this week that the media are not on the list of companies that will be eligible to government support as part of the stimulus packages St. Maarten and Curaçao are launching as a result of the corona crisis. Several media have objected to the decision to exclude this sector. In Aruba, the media are on the list for government support.
Curaçao Minister of Economic Development Giselle McWilliam explained that the media were not on the list because at this stage there was no money to assist all sectors, and that priorities had to be set. She did not exclude that the media may receive support in a second phase. Newspapers and radio stations on the islands are struggling because of declining advertisements.
Dutch Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, and of Media Arie Slob has stated before that the media play an important role in informing the people during the corona crisis. In the Netherlands, the media houses can make use of the support measures.
In addition, an amount of 11 million euros has been made available to support the ailing regional newspapers and broadcasting companies. Slob has also called on municipalities to support their local media with advertisements.
The Netherlands Association for Journalists VNJ is very concerned about the situation in the Dutch Caribbean, and the exclusion of the media in Curaçao and St. Maarten.
“I find it a very odd choice to make a selection of the sectors that will receive support, and to leave out the media,” said VNJ board member Thomas Bruning, who announced that he would bring the matter to the attention of the Dutch government.