THE HAGUE – SP and GroenLinks are ‘shocked’ that the Aruban government also arrests journalists during the curfew. The parties have asked Parliamentary questions.

In the fight against the coronavirus, the Aruban government has prohibited its residents from leaving their homes at night. Only individuals with a vital profession are allowed to leave their homes. To the shock of Parliament, members of the press have not been included in this group.

As a result of this, Caribbean Network’s very own Sharina Henriquez was arrested on Sunday evening by the police while she was working. She also received a fine of 1.000 florin (516 euros).

‘No help for Aruba without free press’
SP and GroenLinks are shocked that a journalist who was working has been arrested. “This crisis cannot be used to keep journalists quiet”, say SP MP Ronald van Raak.

“This is absolutely terrible”, according to Groenlinks MP Nevin Özütok. “As members of Parliament we are also here to keep an eye on the government. A lot of the information we get comes from the press. Maybe bad decisions are being made, especially because there is a curfew in place.

As far as the SP is concerned, Aruba will not receive any help as long as journalists cannot do their work freely. “We need to help Aruba. But if we help Aruba, we can also require that certain conditions are met before we help.”

Prime minister Wever-Croes: ‘I’m counting on your support’
Prime minister Wever-Croes assured Caribbean Network on Friday that the curfew is considered to be ‘essential during a serious crisis’ and was steadfast in her decision to curtail journalists. “The freedom of the press is not being jeopardized.”

“Please understand, because we are in an unforeseen crisis which affects the core of our economy”, says the prime minister. “We’re asking the press to work with us for a few hours. I’m counting on your support.”

Police will do the reporting during the curfew

According to the Aruban government journalists don’t have to worry: the police will be reporting instead of the press.

“The Aruban Police Force will report anything that happens at night between 20:00 and 03:00. And I will supply the press with information”, said prime minister Wever-Croes.

MP’s: ‘Press more important than ever’
Van Raak (SP) finds it appalling that the political powers are taking over the role of the journalists. “It’s not up to politicians to decide what is or isn’t news. If a journalist wants to report on the policing of the curfew, that’s the journalist’s choice.”

“These are crucial times for the press”, according to Özütok (Groenlinks). If the press – as an independent witness – cannot write about or report on the curfew, than we don’t know what’s happening.”

Behind the scenes a number of MP’s have already made their concerns known to Aruban politicians. The Aruban press wanted to speak to the prime minister and the Dutch Association of Journalists sent a scathing letter to Wever-Croes.

Government of Aruba didn’t want to react to arrest today

We asked the government of Aruba for a reaction regarding the arrest of the journalist, because it is a direct result of the emergency measure. Prime minster Wever-Croes, through her spokesperson, informed us on Monday that ‘she’s too busy to give an substantive reaction’ and directed us to the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

Journalism ‘crucial profession’

Just like the SP, Groenlinks hopes that the Aruban government see ‘that this measure is not proportional for journalists’. “I sincerely hope that the Aruban prime minster takes a close look at this and that the issue gets fixed”, says Nevin Özütok.

“In times of crisis extreme measures need to be taken and assurances must be made that it is supported”, says Ronald van Raak (SP). “That can only happen if there is plenty of oversight on those measures. Journalism is a crucial profession.”