Report: Dutch Police Are Visiting The Homes of People Critical of Asylum Centers On Twitter, Urging Them to Delete PostsFrom NRC.nl, translation via Kinbaku_enthusiast:
Jan. 26, 2016
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Monday afternoon Mark Jongeneel received a distressing phonecall. His mother. Two policemen had just visited and were looking for him, but they didn't explain why. Now they were going to Mark's office: he owns a debt-collection company. Wat could be going on? "I was drunk saturday night, I recalled". But he could remember everything of that night.
"You twitter a lot, don't you?" the police said, when they were sitting in his office. "We have received orders to ask you to watch your tone. Your tweets could be perceived as inciting.
Tuesday night in Sliedrecht there was a meeting about an asylum center in the region. In the days leading to this meeting, Mark Jongeneel placed a couple of tweets. Like: "The college of Sliedrecht has a proposal to receive 250 refugees in the coming 2 years. What a bad plan! #kominverzet" (#letusresist). Earlier he had also tweeted: "We won't let this happen, will we?
The last months the police has been visiting more people at home who on social media wrote things negatively about asylum centers. In october in Leeuwarden, there was a home visitation to about twenty opposers of asylum centers. In Enschede the cops visited those sympathetic to the asylum center alerts. (I think they mean people that follow @azc_alert, a twitter account of the platform focused on getting more space for citizens to have "inspraak" and create a more humane asylum center policy. Inspraak = a dutch concept for being allowed to discuss and have some input into decisions) In Kaatsheuvel, at least three villagers received a house visit from the police because they aired critical views on the coming of a emergency-reception or because they owned a page on social media regarding asylum issues.
With the house visits the police is trying to make people aware "what the effect of a post or tweet can be on the internet", says a spokesperson of the national police. With ten "realtime intelligence-units", groups of digital directers spread around in the country, facebook pages and twitter accounts are being monitored. Attention is being paid to posts that go "too far".
Cities too direct the police. That happened to Jongeneel. The spokesperson of the city Sliedrecht explains that they wanted to make clear dat a possible physically present demonstration would be "fine", but it would have to be reported to the police in advance. "It absolutely wasn't the intent to silence the man. Really not. We think that everybody should be able to voice his opinion."
It didn't come across so casual and free of consequences to Jongeneel. "It's like we live in a police state."
Freedom of speech
"Let them go away, those assholes, we are all going to the town hall", was posted by carmechanicshop-owner Johan van Wouw(43) a few weeks ago on a monday morning on his own facebook page. He had briefly before read on the internet that Kaatsheuvel would receive 1200 refugees and he wanted to show that he completely opposed the decision. A few hours later the police visited him. "They said that this was inciting a demonstration and they tried to get me to remove the post of the internet".
The visit took about twenty minutes and the police acted in a very authoritarian way, according to Van Wouw. Since he has felt limited in his freedom. "When I post something on facebook, I do realize that the police is possibly reading what I write."
The other people that were visited by the police also feel they are being gagged. "Why can't we say what we think?" asks Kim(33) from Kaatsheuvel. She doesn't want her last name in the newspaper. Kim received the police because of tweets of her and her boyfriend. She posted multiple facebook messages, through which their displeasure about an asylumcenter in their area is clear. Also something like: We're not going to turn this into a Geldermalsen? (This refers to a small riot during a meeting regarding 1500 refugee beds in a village. Rioters protested and disrupted the meeting, using illegal firework and lightly injuring two cops. Only luck prevented more serious injuries, as the illegal firework was also thrown into the building.) Kim: "But if people follow-up my words with those kind of actions, that's their fault, isn't it?"
Sowing hate and inciting is illegal in the Netherlands. But where is the border of the allowed surpassed? According to the spokesperson of the national police this is hard to say. New estimates are made all the time; there are no specific rules.
"It's a subtle border that's easily surpassed" says professor criminal law Nico Kwakman, connected to the university in Groningen. "You can say: "I think the Islam is a backward religion". That's an opinion. But if you go further and say: "Muslims are bad and have to be re-educated", you pass a border." It also depends on who makes the statement and at what moment.
Actually this shows that the police is getting up to date, says Jaap Timmer, university teacher societal safety on the free university of Amsterdam. "If in the past, somebody said in a bar that he would go and demonstrate and that he would throw in windows, he too would receive a homevisit. The police has apparantly discovered that the public domain also happens on social media.
Not taken seriously AGAIN
"The police is seen as someone who finds crime, but also to prevent crime, to help and advise the citizens", says criminal law expert Kwakman. This is what the police wants to do, in these cases, he thinks. "But they made, I think, an error in judgement what this means to the person receiving a visit." According to Kwakman it would have been wiser to have another public servant, without a uniform, to those people. "As soon as a policeman tells you that what you're doing is not ok, you're feeling intimidated and criminalized."
The visit of the police has only made Kim from Kaatshuevel angrier, she tells us. "The city makes so much effort to make sure we shut up, what does that mean?" She thinks she knows the answer: "We're not taken seriously, AGAIN."
The citizens have little confidence, thinks Mark Jongeneel. "After the visit of the police, I have decided to voice my opinion clearer. I will not be silenced."
That's why he spoke Tuesday, at the city meeting.