This post provides an overview of the level of investigative journalism on MH17 by Dutch regular media.
All Dutch media except RTL Nieuws hardly did any investigative journalism. The media covered events, some went to Eastern Ukraine, did interviews but did not dig any deeper.
298 innocent people on board of MH17 died at July 17 2014 when a surface to air missile destroyed the Boeing 777. Almost three years later the public still has many unanswered questions. Who did it? What was the motive? Why nobody has been arrested yet? Why does the does government keep so many information secret?
Many questions could have been investigated by the Dutch press. However, many media failed in doing proper research.
Definition of investigative journalism
Wikipedia definition is;
Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report
So investigative journalism is not a reprint of a press release. Nor is it an interview and publishing some unique quotes. One of the characteristics is that it takes days, weeks or even months of research before an article is ready to publish. In many cases multiple talks with subjects experts is part of the research.
Another aspects is that the goal should be finding truth. Not reporting because of propaganda reasons and hidden agenda’s.
Just three men working as volunteers for Bellingcat did more investigation than all Dutch media combined. Using only open sources on Internet Bellingcat was able to track down the route the BUK took. More important. Bellingcat was able to establish that the BUK seen in Eastern Ukraine belong to a Russian army unit based in Kursk, Russia.
All it took was dedication, lots of time, clever thinking and some skills on using Internet sources.
Max van der Werff went twice to Eastern Ukraine to investigate MH17. He wrote many blogs and spent over 2000 hours on research.
I wrote 605 blogposts on MH17 and did over 2000 hours of research.
Difficult to get easy answers
I do understand it is hard to get information supplied by authorities. And there are no whistleblowers (yet). So journalists should use open sources and consult experts.
I guess one of the options is to use the ‘Bas Haan’ method. Haan is a Dutch journalist working for Nieuwsuur. He was able to get his hands on cash slips /receipts which proved Minister had lied. He got his information by rining on doors of people involved (like people working at Ministry)
Many questions remain unanswered:
- How does a BUK TELAR system works
- What could be the motive for the shot down
- Why does it take so long to arrest suspects
- Is it correct that Russian airlines were overflying restricted airspace at July 24 2014 as reported by Correctiv.
- Under which law suspects will be prosecuted
- What was the reason for the air attack by an Ukraine fighter jet of a building in the middle of Snizhne at July 15 killing 11 citizens. Was it because a BUK was parked at the nearby compound?
- What information is Dutch government hiding and why?
- Australia has not confirmed MH17 was a terror act. This would make it possible for next of kin to get money from Australia. Why didn’t Australia call MH17 a terror attack?
- What kind of information did the crew of the BUK have on the target ?
- Which weapon was used to down the Antonov 26 at July 14? Did Ukraine ever investigate?
- Why DSB did not mention the complete lack of primary radar availablity in Eastern Ukraine airspace in the final report
- How come the second plume photo was made from the exact position a few weeks earlier a photo was made and published on Twitter. Someone was filming the area using a tripod. Why?
- Why JIT needs three years to determine if the confict was an non-international or national conflict
- How come the photos and videos of the BUK are all from anonymous sources
- Why does Dutch prosecutor tell nonsense about radar format and specifications
- Why Dutch state does not take legal action against Russia and Ukraine
- Why did Dutch OM not specify the exaxt type of weapon at press conference while this was announced
- Why Dutch prosecution service told they did not need radar images and later requested Russia for radar
- Why a mailbox of assistent of Dutch minister was deleted and could not be retrieved
- What about the ‘onderste steen’ and this long list
- What is the relation between Ukraine and the Netherlands?
- How many times did OSCE check the safety situation of the crashsite in the weeks after July 14?
- Why Dutch detectives cannot work in Eastern Ukraine
- Why Dutch authorities keep on saying Eastern Ukraine is not safe.
- Why Ukraine attacked the crash site, hindering the recovery and investigation and Dutch government did not make this public
- Why Dutch government in almost all requests for information waits till the day the deadline expires.
- Why was Malaysia not part of the countries that hold Russia responsible for downing of MH17
- Why was Belgium not part of the countries that hold Russia responsible for downing of MH17
I could easly list 50 more questions which need investigation.
Now lets have a look of what kind of research was done by professional journalists.
RTL Nieuws by far did the most investigative journalism of all Dutch media. Reporter Jeroen Akkermans visited the crashsite multiple time and made many photos of the wreckage.
In September 2014 RTL reported about mistakes made by the Dutch in the recovery. The mission did not consult Ukraine commanders who lead previous recovery actions.
In December 2014 RTL reported about photos of a plume which JIT later confirmed to be of the BUK missile. Reporter Olaf Koens was awarded ‘Dutch journalist of year 2014‘ for his work covering Russia and Ukraine.
In March 2015 RTL Jeroen Akkermans published breaking news about supposed parts of the missile and fragments of the warhead he found earlier on the crash site. Akkermans was nominated for De Tegel, a highly appreciated award for journalism.
RTL took the initiative for multiple Freedom of Information (WOB) requests to force the Dutch government to release documents related to MH17. Most of the requests are still to be decided by Dutch court.
NOS Journaal and NOS Nieuwsuur did some investigative journalism, despite NOS being the largest news desk of the Netherlands.
NOS reporters were constantly in the area in July/August 2014 covering the news events.
The most impressive piece of work was delivered by Nieuwsuur reporter Gert-Jan Dennekamp in summer 2017. His item on a reconstruction was aired at July 1 and July 2 2017. Dennekamp interviewed many people involved in the war. His research showed MH17 was victim of an increasing war. Episode 1 is discussed here.
NOS Journaal kept to just reporting about events related to MH17. Rudy Bouma, reporter for Nieuwsuur visited the area and did a couple of items. Bouma went to the village of Zaroschinskoe, which Russia states two Ukraine BUKs were positioned. and found out nobody actually saw BUKs parked at July 17.
NOS reporter Gert Jan Denekamp went to Eastern Ukraine to follow the route of the BUK as documented by Bellingcat. It was one of the longest articles by NOS on MH17. NOS filed together with RTL and Volkskrant a WOB.
Denekamp also spoke to the former head of Ukraine investigation team. Vasyl Vovk told Dutch and Australian prosecutor made a special deal to be able to speak to witness without presence of Ukraine authorities.
Investigative journalism program KRO Reporter made a few programs on MH17. In June 2015 in a special episode on MH17 Reporter made public that is was basically pure luck that some airlines avoided Eastern Ukraine airspace.
Remarkable enough the BBC documentary “Conspiracy Files Who shot down MH17” was not broadcasted in the Netherlands. It was shown in for example the UK, Germany and Canada.
Argos Radio was able to obtain the minutes of meetings of a Kiev ambassadors meeting. In that meeting Kiev authorities told ambassadors that Russia is actively participating in the war and that a heavy weapon was used to down an Antonov 26 transport aircraft.
Print and online
Netherlands largest newspaper Telegraaf made a couple of mistakes. They reported MH17 was downed by a bomb according some documents sent by anonymous sources. Later Telegraaf again published secret documents which are extremely likely to be fake.
Telegraaf published a couple of articles on German detective Resch. No research here. No WOB requests. The parliamentary newsdesk had a scoop about Finland helping the Netherlands with BUK missile explosion tests.
Algemeen Dagblad published an investigation by German organization Correctiv. The report was full of mistakes which could have been know at time of publication. No investigative research. No WOB requests.
Elsevier did around November 2014 a request for information on the agreement made by JIT countries. Dutch government refused to make public the requested documents.
Volkskrant took part with RTL and NOS in a WOB-request. In june 2015 the newspaper published a comprehensive article on documents released as a result of the WOB. Bert Lanting went with NOS reporter Dennekamp to Ukraine.by