At UKrant: The new neigbours don’t like us very much

Every day, the editorial staff at the UKrant wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? In ‘At UKrant’, an irregular column, we take a look behind the scenes.

In the editorial office, we had been talking about it for a while: it’s not a question of whether it will happen, but when. Yet we were surprised on Monday morning when we suddenly got new neighbours.

Next to the editorial office, at the front of the Harmonie square, an encampment was set up in a matter of minutes, after which pro-Palestinian activists took possession of the square.

It’s pretty convenient, actually. We can follow all the developments, so to speak, from our desks, even though the windows on the square side are covered with banners that obstruct our view, and in the office, due to the loud cheers and applause next to us, it’s often impossible to have a decent conversation, unless we raise our voices.

But it’s also become a little uncomfortable. Because the new neighbours don’t like us.

If anyone has a question, they are referred to Instagram

By ‘us’, I don’t just mean UKrant. The protesters have agreed among themselves not to talk to the press. If anyone has a question, they are referred to a page on Instagram. Is that helpful if you also want and need publicity? I don’t think so, but it’s a choice. And after all, it’s not my protest.

But it is my square. The square belongs to all of us; it’s public space. But journalists who want to take photos or videos there, or even just walk around with something that looks like a camera, are shadowed, obstructed, asked to show their press pass, and urged to leave by the protesters.

A few times journalists were even intimidated; the protesters would surround someone, shouting and cheering and holding banners and signs, sticking their hands in front of the cameras to make their work impossible.

Protester: ‘You can’t film here.’

Journalist: ‘Why not? This is public space.’

Protester: ‘Because we don’t want you to.’

Journalist: ‘Why not?’

Protester: ‘It’s on our Instagram page.’

How can you demand transparency from the uni but keep your own motives under wraps?

It starkly contrasts with a key demand of the activists: the university must be transparent about its connections and interests with institutions in Israel. How can you demand that from the uni but keep silent about your own motives and refer to Instagram?

They also want more democracy; but apparently, that demand ends when the free press – still one of the pillars of that democracy – enters ‘their’ square.

That’s why it’s hard to understand why the demonstrators have chalked the number 103 on the outer wall of UKrant, with just as many tally marks. It’s about the 103 journalists who have been killed during the Gaza war in the past few months.

Why write that on the walls to reinforce your message but drive journalists away from the square?

Now that the first dust of the occupation has settled and some semblance of peace has returned, the protesters spend the day outdoors giving and attending workshops.

I don’t think the workshop ‘How to deal with the press’ is on the agenda. But it should be.

Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief UKrant



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