In total, 211 individuals and organisations have applied for subsidies to generate a buzz around the referendum on new Dutch phone and internet tapping legislation which has been described as a Big Brother’s charter.
By far the most – 137 applications – were made by organisations which aim to generate ‘neutral’ publicity for the referendum. Opponents made 51 applications and supporters just 23, the organisers said.
The controversial legislation gives the security services powers to tap entire networks and hack private individuals in the hunt for information. It has also been criticised by the government’s highest advisory body, the Council of State as well as various privacy bodies.
In total, €2m is available for publicity campaigns – up to €5,000 for private individuals and €50,000 for companies and other organisations. The referendum will be held on March 21, coinciding with the local government elections.
Some payments have already been made public. The junior wing of the Socialist party and the Pirate Party have both been given money to fund their vote no campaigns, as have several ‘democracy’ based organisations.
One ‘neutral’ private individual has been granted €4,830 to hand out flyers and cupcakes to students at various hbo colleges, the referendum website shows.
During the referendum on the EU’s treaty with Ukraine in April 2016 there was a lot of criticism of the way subsidies were distributed and dozens of organisations had to pay money back.
The most controversial of the ‘no’ campaigns was a grant of nearly €41,500 for the production of toilet rolls with anti-Ukraine slogans.
Meanwhile, Trouw points out that three of the youth wings of the four coalition parties are against the new legislation – including that of the biggest party, the VVD, as well as D66.
The ChristenUnie’s youth arm is also opposed to the new rules but will not take part in active campaigning, the paper said.
‘We want better guarantees for privacy,’ said Splinter Chabot, chairman of the youth VVD arm JOVD. ‘We will certainly be taking our standpoint to the streets.’
The new government is committed to abolishing referendums, which are purely advisory. And CDA leader Sybrand Buma said last October that the new government will ignore the result of the March 21 vote.