Tuesday 24 September 2019

Tax office withdraws ads from shock blogs, minister defends decision

The tax office has become the latest government department to withdraw advertising from Telegraaf shock blogs GeenStijl and Dumpert after GeenStijl published a string of rape fantasies targeting a critical columnist for the Volkskrant newspaper.

‘In many peoples’ eyes, they have crossed the line,’ deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher said on Tuesday, in answer to MPs’ questions. ‘Women are right to take action.’

Last week the Volkskrant and NRC published a letter from 143 women from the media and politics calling on advertisers to stop supporting the websites. At the weekend, both education minister Jet Bussemaker and infrastructure minister Melanie Schultz threw their weight behind the campaign.

The defence ministry, the Efteling theme park, Jumbo supermarkets and a string of other commercial companies have since instructed their media buyers to exclude the shock blogs from their advertising budget.

‘The [tax] office currently has no need to advertise on the sites,’ Asscher said. ‘This is not necessarily because of its generally sexist character but because of the shout-out about the Volkskrant journalist which crossed a line.’

Claims that the campaigners are trying to suppress freedom of expression are wrong, Asscher said, in response to criticism from the right-wing populist PVV.

‘Freedom of speech is threatened if I say you cannot picture naked bottoms,’ he said. ‘But it is up to the government to decide whether or not to advertise in certain contexts. Freedom of speech does not mean that there is a requirement to pay for every opinion via advertising.’

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