Reporters Without Borders

Shock at Dutch filmmaker’s murder

Published on Wednesday 3 November 2004.
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Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today at the murder yesterday in Amsterdam of Theo Van Gogh, a controversial filmmaker, writer and columnist known for mordant and provocative views who had received death threats after a film he had made about Islam was recently shown on television.

"We are horrified by this murder," the press freedom organisation said. "No one deserves to die for the views they express, no matter how shocking."

Van Gogh was shot several times and stabbed on a street in the east of Amsterdam. His presumed murderer, a 26-year-old man with both Dutch and Moroccan nationality, was arrested the same day. Interior minister Johan Remkes said the suspect had links to radical Islamists.

A short film by Van Gogh called "Submission," criticising the oppression of women in Islam, was recently the subject of controversy. With a screenplay by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a liberal parliamentarian of Somali origin, it showed a young Muslim woman describing the abuse she had received from her husband and other members of her family. The actress’s naked body, covered by verses from the Koran, could at one point be seen under a transparent veil.

Van Gogh received death threats after the film was screened on Dutch TV at the end of August, and he had just finished another film about the 2002 murder of populist leader Pim Fortuyn. But state prosecutor Leo Wit said there had been "no information about concrete threats that would have justified giving him a bodyguard in recent months."

As well as making a score of other films, Van Gogh wrote a column in the Dutch daily Metro, contributed to many other news media and wrote three books.

About 20,000 people, including many Muslims, attended a gathering in his memory in Amsterdam yesterday evening.

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