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Update KNHG: NRC retracts promise to publish reader’s letter

Update KNHG: NRC retracts promise to publish reader’s letter

March 17, 2024. Last January, the Royal Dutch Historical Society (KNHG) accused Histori Bersama and the Komite Utang Kehormatan Belanda (KUKB) of having intimidated Dutch historian Anne-Lot Hoek. Dutch newspaper NRC took over these accusations without including our side of the story.

We then asked the advice of a lawyer who contacted NRC on our behalf to demand rectification. The publication of unfounded accusations, for which there is no evidence, is considered unlawful in the Netherlands. Yet, NRC Editor-in-chief Melle Garschagen refused to correct the one-sided news coverage of his newspaper because, according to him, it was a purely factual article that reported on the KNHG statement in a proper journalistic manner.

Nevertheless, Garschagen promised that both the Histori Bersama foundation and the KUKB foundation were given the opportunity to respond to the allegations by means of a reader’s letter of a maximum of 250 words.

However, after we submitted our letter, NRC retracted their promise. The opinion editors did not want to publish the two letters because they claimed that they were factually incorrect. According to Garschagen, the way in which we described the functioning of journalist Bart Funnekotter was false. He also said that a reader’s letter should support the public debate and provide readers with new information and he claimed that this was not the case in our letter.

Hereby the 2 letters that NRC refused to publish, translated from Dutch to English:

On January 30, 2024, without prior hearing from the KUKB Foundation, Bart Funnekotter published the article ‘Historian Anne-Lot Hoek intimidated because of [participation in Dutch government-sponsored] Indonesia research.’ According to The Royal Dutch Historical Society (KNHG), Anne-Lot Hoek was intimidated by “activists” from the KUKB Foundation and the Histori Bersama Foundation. This accusation is incorrect. Relevant facts for this are lacking. On February 9, 2024, the NRC ombudsman wrote in his article ‘Honorable historians denounce intimidation, but what exactly are they referring to?’ The accusation therefore concerns factual criticism that has been taken personally. Or worse: this concerns a smear campaign to undermine our criticism by improper means. Relevant facts are also missing from the press statement on the KNHG website, which was issued without any objection. There was no response to the KUKB Foundation’s request to KNHG to provide these facts. It is curious that the ombudsman Bart nevertheless defends Funnekotter: “Funnekotter had seen and heard examples of this intimidation … However, that was on a background basis; he was not allowed to publish them, partly because they could lead to legal complications.” Apparently, with the blessing of their ombudsman, ‘quality newspaper’ NRC believes that, the unverifiable opinion of one of its journalists is enough to serve as evidence, despite already having expressed serious doubts as to whether the facts are legally sufficient. However, serious accusations of a factual nature must have sufficient basis in the facts in a verifiable manner. Otherwise this not only concerns very bad journalism but these are unlawful statements too.

Jeffry Pondaag, founder and chairman of the KUKB Foundation, Heemskerk

I agree with the reader’s letter from KUKB’s chairman Jeffry Pondaag. We are confronted with the same accusation in the aforementioned article of January 30, 2024. Bart Funnekotter writes that founder Marjolein van Pagee was asked for a response but did not provide one. This is incorrect. The next day he received an extensive press release from us. It is important to take into account that she was staying in Indonesia when he contacted her, about which she informed him. Due to the six-hour time difference, it was bedtime when she first heard of KNHG’s far-reaching accusations. To remove the impression of bias and still allow fair hearing, the newspaper could have published a follow-up article after having received our response. This has not been done. In any case, we never threatened Hoek or her family. Yet, for years we have been objectively criticizing historians who participated in the – according to us – politically motivated research ‘Independence, decolonization, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950’. Between 2017 and 2019 Hoek contributed to this project. By not explaining the context and by framing objective criticism as intimidation, NRC shows to be biased itself. Unfortunately, this is not a new development. Since 2017, NRC has not reported on our criticism of this very politically sensitive research project. All the opinion articles that we submitted were rejected, while participating researchers were given all space. NRC’s news section also never reported about our resistance against an important social wrongdoing. Now, added to this is this recent publication of the accusations by the KNHG.

Daniël Samar, chairman of the Histori Bersama Foundation, Zutphen

Read also:

Honorable historians denounce intimidation, but what exactly are they referring to? NRC

Press release Histori Bersama – KNHG accusations

Press release Royal Dutch Historical Society – January 30 2024