Stella Braam
Stella Braam, an investigative reporter with The Investigative Desk, disclosed on August 28 that the Dutch intelligence services had surveilled her from 1986 to 2017. (Koos Breukel)

Dutch intelligence revealed to have surveilled investigative reporter Stella Braam for decades

Berlin, September 12, 2022—Dutch intelligence services should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the surveillance of investigative reporter Stella Braam, destroy any data collected on her and her sources, and ensure that she will not be targeted in the future, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

On August 28, Braam, a reporter with The Investigative Desk cooperative of specialized investigative journalists, disclosed that the Dutch intelligence services had surveilled her from 1986 to 2017, according to news reports and the journalist, who communicated with CPJ via email.

On June 2, the General Intelligence and Security Service, or AIVD, complied with Braam’s request to view her own personal file and gave her a 300-page, mostly redacted document concerning surveillance by AIVD and its predecessor organization, the BVD, according to the journalist and those reports. Braam told CPJ that she resigned from her post at The Investigative Desk after receiving the file out of concern for the confidentiality of her sources.

During those years, Braam told CPJ that she reported extensively on the activities in the Netherlands of the Turkish ultranationalist group the Grey Wolves, and Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party. Intelligence authorities said in the file that Braam was of interest due to her contacts in Turkish immigrant circles, according to those reports.

On September 6, AIVD communications head Inge Oevering said that Braam’s name had appeared in the course of the agency’s surveillance of the Gray Wolves, but that “does not justify the conclusion that we have investigated her,” according to news reports, which added that Oevering said the intelligence service would never be able to confirm or deny whether Braam was specifically under surveillance.

“Dutch authorities should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the surveillance of investigative reporter Stella Braam from 1986 to 2017, and take immediate steps to ensure that journalists are not monitored for their work,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Surveilling journalists in an EU member state is unacceptable. Dutch authorities should immediately explain their motives for this surveillance, destroy any information gathered about Braam and her work, and stop any ongoing surveillance programs targeting members of the press.”

Any Dutch citizen can submit a request to the intelligence service to disclose their files, according to Braam, but she said that only data from more than five years ago can be released.

“There’s a very good chance that I’ve compromised my journalistic sources, and chances are I’m being followed to this day,” she told CPJ. Braam said she plans take legal action to make the intelligence service destroy all the data it collected about her, and stop any ongoing surveillance.

Braam said she was shocked when she read the documents, which revealed that intelligence agents had spoken to anonymous sources about her, although the actual content of those discussions has been redacted. 

“Who were these sources, and what did they say?” she said. “This is terrifying. I cried and then I got angry. What possessed the secret service? Why am I dangerous to the state? I’ve written all my life on important social issues, hoping to move society forward. Apparently, the state thinks otherwise.”

CPJ emailed AIVD for comment, but did not receive any reply.