THE HAGUE – Several journalistic media on Sint Maarten are experiencing financial difficulties because of the devastation of Hurricane Irma. State Secretary Raymond Knops is not planning to assist them for now.
The newspaper Today has already been killed after hurricane Irma and the same can happen in the course of the year with The Daily Herald, the only newspaper left over on the island. The daily newspaper is also distributed on Saba and St. Eustatius. SP and D66 are concerned about the independence of journalism on the island.
The Netherlands is donating more than half a billion euros for the reconstruction fund of Sint Maarten. The news media, which depends on the collapsed advertising market, receive no financial support. According to SP and D66, the Netherlands still has to come up with a solution. Dutch tax money goes to Sint Maarten and the press has an extra important controlling function, they believe.
“Is that not a part of the reconstruction? That citizens, journalists, other people can check and also can speak if things go wrong?”, asks member Ronald van Raak (SP) during a consultation on the reconstruction of Sint Maarten.
Dutch cabinet keeps its hands off
The chief editor of The Daily Herald calls for loans for the local media. According to the Media Act, the SP’s suggestion to provide support from its own Dutch press funds is not possible, according to State Secretary Knops. Not even through money from the European Union.
Secretary of State Knops says he shares the concerns of the House, but he does not want to burn his hands: setting up a separate fund for the Sint-Maartens press is ‘a whole operation’, in which it can appear as if the Netherlands is promoting certain media.
“Before you know it, you’re sitting at a newspaper that is sponsored by the Netherlands and that’s the last thing I would want”, Knops reacts. “Moreover, media have been killed before and we did not do that either.”
Cabinet counts on Sint Maarten market
Apart from The Daily Herald, the radio stations also have a hard time. The advertising market is estimated to have shrunk by 70 percent. The question is whether news website StMaartenNews.com, which was set up after the death of the daily Today, is still running after the summer.