Will criminal Holleeder ‘steal the show’? – What the papers say

College Tour is a programme in which students and presenter Twan Huys interview a ‘grootheid’, or very influential person, as broadcaster NRT’s website has it. On Friday the influential person will be Willem Holleeder, Heineken kidnapper, blackmailer and – allegedly – the man behind the murders of several witnesses. Should convicted criminals be given a podium? What the papers say.

In an editorial, Trouw writes Holleeder has become an ‘anti-hero and, to some, a cult figure’. Trouw is referring to the fact that Holleeder, who was freed in January after serving just six years of a nine year sentence, has a column in the magazine Nieuwe Revu and made a record with rapper Lange Frans.  


‘The NTR’s arguments for having students engage in a discussion with Holleeder don’t hold water. “Everybody wants to know about him” is not sufficient reason to invite the likes of Holleeder onto a programme such as College Tour. The point of College Tour is that students can learn something from the life stories of heroes like Desmond Tutu or (astronaut) André Kuipers. The NRT has acknowledged that not much can be learnt from Holleeder. Students can ask “fundamental questions about the state of law,” it offered. NRT clearly doesn’t have a clue’, Trouw writes.

In the NRC sociologist Herman Vuijsje wonders about the attitude of some people in the media towards Holleeder, citing Nieuwe Revu editor Eric Noomen who relishes Holleeder’s ‘wonderful anecdotes’ and DJ Ruud de Wild who, along with his colleagues at Radio 538, engaged in ‘jolly banter’ with Holleeder when he appeared on their show to promote his record. ‘We are having fun talking to a notorious criminal and it’s all completely normal’, was the emphatically unemphatic message this was meant to convey,’ writes Vuijsje.


But it’s not normal at all, Vuijsje argues. ‘Journalists who are confronted with criminals in the line of work should be business-like, ask relevant questions and leave it at that. The fact the person involved is interesting from a news point of view doesn’t mean they should be presented as if they are okay as human beings.’

The explanation, according to Vuijsje, is partly ‘a primitive fascination with evil-doers, or simply a fear of retaliation.’ But cosying up to criminals when distance and a business-like attitude should be the norm is also a result of ‘insecurity and embarrassment’ . The Dutch have become hesitant when called upon to give a moral judgment, says Vuijsje, because it reminds them of the – not too distant – times of public shaming, when adulterous spouses were put on a cart full of manure and driven round the village of Staphorst.

But things have now gone to the other extreme. ‘Journalists are people, too. They are citizens, parents. (..) Like citizens and parents they must have the courage to show they know right from wrong,’ Vuijsje writes.


Gerlof Leistra in Elsevier thinks Holleeder’s appearance on College Tour is ‘absurd’ and should be cancelled. ‘It’s an illusion to think he will be up-front about his criminal activities,’ Leistra writes.

‘It’s also an affront to his many victims and their relatives. Viewing figures are proving more important than ethics. This spells the end of public broadcasting,’ he concludes.

Shut up

Not everybody condemns the decision to feature Holleeder. The Volkskrant quotes D66 MP Kees Verhoeven who feels the programme could contain some ‘educational elements’. A coordinator of a re-integration project for ex-prisoners claims: ‘It’s a sign he is willing to confront society and many ex-prisoners don’t feel able to do this.(..) If, like Holleeder, you are strong enough to appear in the media it means you have come quite a long way already.’

Former police inspector Kees Sietsma, involved in the Heineken abduction case, is quoted as saying ‘We should all shut up about him until he’s in his grave. He revels in all the attention.’






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