Following a lawsuit brought by Platform Authentieke Journalistiek (PAJ), the public may soon have access to more information about the relationship between Shell and the Dutch government between 2005 and 2019. The oil and gas giant is believed to have very close links with the authorities, which raises questions about how this relationship is structured, how the various interests are weighed and by whom, and what the consequences are.
In 2019, the PAJ filed suit for access to all the relevant documents after the journalists’ requests for the records under the Freedom of Information Act were denied by seventeen administrative bodies, RTV Drenthe, which participates in the investigation, reports.
The journalists sought access to any relevant information, including communication between the company and officials. The court has now ruled that the government should fully cooperate with the Shell Papers investigative team.
All the ministries, the province of Zuid-Holland and the municipality of Rotterdam sought an exemption to the state’s open records law because of the sheer size of the documents involved. A Dutch trial court rejected this argument Wednesday and ordered to turn over unredacted files to the journalists. The government can appeal the ruling within the next six weeks.
The North remembers
In the meantime, four northern administrative bodies have responded to the investigators’ request positively: the province of Drenthe and the municipality of Assen have already made their documents about Shell and NAM public. The province of Groningen and the municipality of Groningen are apparently preparing to release all their records, too.
What are the Shell Papers anyway
In the Netherlands, the term ‘Shell Papers’ refers to a dossier by Follow the Money (FTM), a platform for investigative journalism. The FTM researchers, in collaboration with RTV Drenthe and RTV Noord, investigate the relationship between Shell and the Dutch government. Since its founding in the late 19th century, Shell has maintained close ties with the Dutch government. The name of the energy giant has previously come up in connection with the economic, fiscal, international, environmental, and even educational policy of the state. Journalists say that all the records related to these ties are essential to informing the public and holding the elected officials accountable for their decision making.