Student - June 12, 2008

Dijkhuizen: no censorship, not even with Hemels

Students and staff do not have to be afraid of censorship in Resource, according to Executive Board president Aalt Dijkhuizen. ‘From the many reactions, it is clear that people fear that the position of independence is going to change. This is not the case. The tender procedure will not lead to a further reduction in editorial freedom.

According to Dijkhuizen, the conditions in the programme of requirements probably do give the Executive Board more control over the reporting, but he does not intend to make use of the possibility. It should be established in an editorial statute that the Executive Board will only concern itself with the timing of news articles relating to organisational issues, he says. ‘I want to be the one to announce any reorganisations. People shouldn’t read things like that in the newspaper first. But once the decision has been taken, the editorial staff is free to devote three issues to showing how stupid our decision was, if they wish. I wouldn’t want to have any influence on that: you have to be able to deal with criticism in our position.’

Dijkhuizen has discussed the future of Resource with the representative advisory councils. They indicated that they had no confidence that an independent newspaper could be made under the conditions set down in the procurement. In that case, the representative bodies would rather have no newspaper. They also doubt whether Hemels Publishers, the company that will probably produce Resource from September, really does have the capacity to make a weekly newspaper on education and research.

‘In the meeting I asked who had bothered to get in touch with Hemels to hear what they are capable of and what their plans are,’ said Dijkhuizen. ‘No one raised their hand. I don’t think that’s very representative of a scientific institution. And when I look at the reactions, sometimes I think: so many titles in front of the name, and such an emotional response. Surely that’s not very appropriate for a scientist?’

The programme of requirements lists various objectives for Resource that are in conflict with the principles of free journalism. For example, the newspaper must ‘contribute to the realisation of Wageningen’s strategic goals’. According to Dijkhuizen, this does not mean that there will only be articles praising his plans. ‘You can also support the strategy process by discussing it critically. That should only make the plans better.’