The Press: A Favor for the Queen

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At her palace recently, Queen Juliana of The Netherlands received two of Holland's top newsmen. Editor in Chief Dr.Maarten Rooy of the Nieuwe Rotter-damse Courant and Robert Peereboom of the Haarlems Dagblad. Said the Queen: she was upset by press coverage and pictures of her and Prince Bernhard on vacations. Would the editors kindly do something about it? Rooy and Peereboom, both officials of the Federation of Netherlands Journalists, most certainly would.

In confidential letters to editors all over Holland, the two reminded their colleagues of an agreement that they had secretly signed five years ago. At that time, all Dutch editors agreed not to print anything about the royal family without prior clearance by the government. Apparently, some of them had forgotten, so Rooy and Peereboom thoughtfully enclosed new copies of the agreement to be signed again. But this time, they made the mistake of sending the agreement not only to Dutch editors, but to foreign newsmen in Holland as well. They also reminded them that stories about the royal family should be checked for accuracy before being printed.

The reaction was prompt—and hardly what Rooy and Peereboom expected. Wired the Foreign Press Association: "Freedom of the press is seriously threatened." When Rooy was asked if it was not the duty of a newspaper to check everything it published, he replied that the papers have a special duty with respect to the Queen. He warned that foreign newsmen who ignored the agreement should not expect cooperation from the Dutch press. The issue, said Rooy, is one of "civilization," not censorship. The association then passed a resolution condemning the agreement, and mailed it to editors and top government officials.

Many Dutch editors, reflecting on the power of the House of Orange-Nassau, signed the agreement for fear that their government sources would dry up if they failed to do so. Recently, for example, one foreign correspondent was warned that his pipelines would be plugged if he kept on mentioning the Queen in his stories. Another, recommended for a government citation, had the honor rescinded when it was learned he had written an article about Juliana for a U.S. magazine.

Though many a Dutch editor considered the agreement "shameful," they all seemed to agree with Editor Rooy that the whole affair was a "technical matter," not concerning the public. Not a line about the dispute was printed in any of Holland's 78 newspapers.