Willem Groeneveld, the editor of the Groningen-based news site Sikkom, filed a police report over the weekend after stones were thrown through the window of his home in the city.
Translation by Hans de Preter
In the early hours of Saturday morning, several of Groeneveld’s windows were smashed when rocks were thrown through the glass. In an interview with Dagblad van het Noordenabout the incident, Groeneveld says that he suspects his home was targeted due to Sikkom’s reporting on exploitative rental practices in the city.
According to the Dagblad, Groeneveld and his girlfriend discovered that two windows had been broken in the home around 1:30 in the morning. Neighbours reportedly spotted two young men wearing hoodies fleeing the scene. Groeneveld called the police, who responded to the call within ten minutes.
Groeneveld believes that the attack was in response to Sikkom’s ongoing critical coverage about the state of affairs in the Groningen real estate world, focusing primarily on extortionate and illegal fees and practices targeting students in particular. He had written an article about an online brokerage firm and had paid the firm in question a visit on Friday afternoon for comment, but the conversation quickly became hostile.
The Sikkom editor said, “The office had come up with yet another tricky way to fleece young tenants, which is sickening. He admitted that they had done it, but acted as if it was a one off, but it was clearly part of their day to day practices. When I pointed that out, he became hostile and suggested I was on drugs, and then he said my home address out loud. A couple of hours later, my windows were smashed with rocks.”
Outgoing Groningen mayor Peter den Oudsten of Groningen says that he takes the matter of threatening a local journalist very seriously. “Journalism must be carried out without hindrance”. The mayor says he will closely monitor the police and Public Prosecution Service investigation: a police spokesperson told the Dagblad that they “take every threat seriously”.
Sikkom’s writers, especially Groeneveld, regularly reveal unethical and illegal practices occurring in the rental market in Groningen, particularly bogus service fees that are not legally defensible and excessive monthly rent. Groeneveld says that he has long been the recipient of verbal threats from business owners in the rental industry in the city, “but I won’t be silenced”.