Firing blanks? Public broadcaster NOS prefers to use ‘wit’


Dutch broadcaster the NOS has sparked controversy by asking its journalists to use the word “wit” instead of “blank” when referring to white people.

According to a press release on “journalistic choices”, published on Wednesday, its language commission has chosen to recommend the word because “blank has associations with cleanliness and purity and zwart [black] clearly does not.”

But the decision has provoked criticism amongst MPs and other journalists, a week after a row about the removal of a statue of Johan Maurits from the Mauritshuis museum he founded because of his role in the slave trade.

VVD party chairman Klaas Dijkhoff tweeted on Wednesday, questioning whether the broadcaster would use the word “wit” instead of “blank” in a Dutch set expression that means flooded.

Subsequent criticism of the NOS decision in shock blog GeenStijl also provoked questions from right-wing PVV MP Martin Bosma to media minister Arie Slob in parliament, reports the Volkskrant – which also prefers the term “wit”, considered more racially neutral.

Marcel Gelauff, editor in chief of NOS Nieuws, told RTL Late Night on Wednesday that the word blank – which is not a word for a colour in Dutch – was not banned and that “in certain situations, such as with quotes, it can still be used.”

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