The limits of free information in the Netherlands

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

The Dutch government wants to restrict the country's Freedom of Information Law (WOB). The WOB allows citizens, journalists and researchers to request government documents. This has led to politically embarrassing revelations about the costs of the Dutch Royal Family, ministers' expenses and the invasion of Iraq.

But the government contends that reporters are abusing the Freedom of Information Law. It is suggesting rejecting "unjustified requests", not disclosing closed-door meetings and introducing conditions on the use of documents, with a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

Journalists and others are arguing that curbing the law will make it difficult or even impossible to hold the authorities to account for their actions.