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World Dutch PM calls van attack on newspaper an attack on free press

A picture taken on June 26, 2018 on Basisweg street in Amsterdam, shows a van that crashed through the front door of the building that houses newspaper De Telegraaf.

LAURENS BOSCH/Getty Images

A man rammed a van into the Amsterdam headquarters of one of the Netherlands’ major national newspapers before setting the vehicle alight Tuesday, an attack that the Dutch prime minister called “a slap in the face of a free press and Dutch democracy.”

No one was injured in the pre-dawn attack on the De Telegraaf building. The newspaper released video of the attack on its website, showing a man ramming a white van into the building twice, before walking out and setting the vehicle on fire. He then moved away and drove off in a waiting car.

It was the second attack on a media outlet in as many weeks after weekly Panorama’s office building was hit last week with an anti-tank weapon. No one was injured and one suspect was detained. Both companies are known for their robust coverage of organized crime.

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The European Union condemned the two attacks Tuesday. “We would like to express our full support and sympathy with the Dutch media and journalists and defend the right to report freely,” said EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that a lot remained unclear about those behind the attack, but “we are alert and police are doing everything they can to catch the perpetrator(s).”

There were no immediate indications that extremism was involved. The paper is known for its crime reporting, and chief editor Paul Jansen said early Tuesday that “it is clear that we don’t have friends everywhere.”

“De Telegraaf is a paper with a very clear view and very good investigative reporters, centring on crime among other things. It is no secret that unfortunately there have been more threats towards us and individual reporters,” Jansen said.

“Those who did this want to shock us and we should not let this happen,” he added. The paper is known for its coverage of organized crime in Amsterdam, including drug trafficking.

Police are seeking witnesses to the incident, which happened around 4 am (0200 GMT).

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