Europe

Dutch King and Queen’s German visit rocked by horrifying assassination attempt on reporter

Merkel makes awkward blunder during chat with Queen Maxima

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The King and Queen of The Netherlands interrupted their visit to Berlin on Tuesday evening to deliver a poignant message to reporters after it was revealed award-winning journalist Peter R. de Vries had been shot in Amsterdam. King Willem-Alexander said they were “deeply upset” by the news.

He said: “We want to make plain our dismay at the appalling attack on Peter R. de Vries.

“We are deeply upset and wish everyone close to him much strength in these difficult times.”

At 10.46pm on Tuesday, the Dutch Royal Family issued an official statement focused on the freedom of the press.

It read: “News of the shooting of journalist Peter R. de Vries has deeply shocked us. 

“He and his loved ones are in our thoughts.

“Journalists must be able to do their important work freely and without being threatened.

“We feel a connection with everyone who stands up for the free press in our legal system.”

The message was signed off by both the King and Queen of The Netherlands.

Normally, the Dutch Royal Family does not comment on individual incidents, making the King and Queen’s remark particularly significant. 

Other leading personalities have spoken of their shock following the shooting.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the attack “shocking and incomprehensible”.

In a press conference, he said the incident “was an attack on a courageous journalist and also an attack on the free press that is so critical to our democracy”.

Tom Gibson, the representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists in the European Union, said the Dutch authorities should “determine if he was targeted for his work, and ensure that the attacker and the masterminds of the attack face justice.” 

And the European Parliament President David Sassoli described the shooting as an attack on the “backbone of democracy”.

He added: “Journalists in the EU must be able to investigate crime and corruption without fearing for their safety.”

Mr De Vries was shot five times after he left the studio of Dutch broadcaster RTL, where he had discussed the case of a hairdresser who was murdered in 2019.

On Tuesday evening, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema made it clear the journalist had been taken to hospital but remained in critical conditions. 

He said in a press conference: “He was seriously wounded and is fighting for his life.”

The journalist had received multiple threats over his work focused on the Dutch criminal underworld, organised crime, gang violence and murders.

Police said three suspects had been detained in the hours following the attack, including the possible shooter, but gave no further details.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima arrived in Germany for a three-day state visit ending today on Monday. 

Their arrival was rather unusual, as the Dutch state plane landed at Berlin Brandenburg Airport had the monarch himself sitting in the co-pilot seat.

The Dutch King piloted several commercial flights for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines before acceding to the throne.

Among the key royal engagements of the King and Queen in Germany there has been a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

They also visited the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

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