Do you trust the media? In many countries in Europe there is concern about the reliability of information in TV, radio, newspapers and Internet news. “We want to explore this topic in a conference in Utrecht”, says Maarten Van de Kuilen, main organiser of the Agora pre-event “Reliability of the media”. It will take place around Easter, from 28th March to 2ndApril, in a town which many consider the beautiful city of the Netherlands.

Maarten Van de Kuilen
Maarten Van de Kuilen

Golden Times: Maarten, why should people attend your event?
Maarten Van de Kuilen: We are going to find out whether the media can always be trusted with the help of several workshops, excursions and lectures.

Golden Times: How did you get the idea for the event?
Maarten: We were discussing the theme for an Agora pre-event in our antenna, when someone came up with the idea “Reliability of the media”. Our commission members – Juliette Frederiks, Tim den Dulk, Tessa Speelman, Farid Amlal and me – knew immediately that this would be the perfect theme. Everyone in the team is very motivated and although we just started organising in November and took a three-week break during Christmas almost the whole event is set up already.

Golden Times: Media work different in every country. Will you look at the phenomenon from a Dutch or general perspective?
Maarten: We do realize this is challenge. Personally, we are not familiar with any other news sources than the Dutch ones, BBC and CNN, so it is hard for us to see the differences. Therefore we aim to make the event more relevant by inviting lecturers who are active on the European or worldwide scale. We will have subjects which are relevant for all of Europe, and we have guests who are active on the European or worldwide level, so they can tell us about their experiences on a scale understandable for everyone.

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Golden Times: Will you have some prominent speakers?
Maarten: The best-known will be Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament, rapporteur for the first EU strategy on digital freedom in foreign policy, vice-chair of the supervisory board of free press unlimited, but most importantly: elected as “Europe’s most wired politician” by the Wall Street Journal. She will tell us something about the use of the mass media and ethic boundaries she faces practising her job.

Golden Times: Europe’s most wired politician? That sounds a bit odd…
Maarten: Marietje Schaatjeis one of the very first politicians of the new generation. A new way of presenting problems and gaining feedback from the European society comes with that. She told the Wall Street Journal: “I think I was elected because of the Internet. I had no budget. I had no master plan, but I did have different networks of people. I was in contact with young entrepreneurs and I was already on Facebook and Twitter.”

Marietje Schaake

Golden Times: Impressive…
Maarten: She was one of the first politicians in the European Parliament to make good use of new media, and proves on several occasions to fight for problems of the new age – for example the European-wide intellectual property rights system. The Wall Street Journal wrote: “She is seen by many as one of the few MEPs who really understands what is going on”. You can find the article here:

Golden Times: Who else will be there?
Maarten: We have five speakers so far. Among the others is the CEO of the big media company, a professor who specialises in media manipulation, a historian who is an expert in the history of information. You can find more detailed information about everyone soon on our website.

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The Buurkerk of Utrecht

Golden Times: What kind of workshops or other interactive elements do you have?
Maarten: We want to leave you with some energy for the Agora, but we also want you to learn something about a very interesting topic, and we want to show you our beautiful city, That’s why we will have intensive sessions with high-level speakers in the mornings, with a lot of time afterwards for questions and discussions. Next to those lectures we are preparing a workshop to, but it is still taking shape.

Golden Times: Utrecht is a very beautiful city. What will be the social programme highlights?
Maarten: The beautiful historic city center with its characteristic canals will be our playground at several occasions, for example during a game, the city tour, and almost every night. The participants will discover the amazing nightlife Utrecht has to offer! This is the Easter you will never forget. The beautiful thing about Utrecht is that it’s relatively small, the participants will have their own bike during the whole event and we will be biking on every occasion. As a result you will be seeing a lot of the typical Dutch landscape. On top of that we will have a biking tour through massive fortifications, built at the end of the 19th century. A trip to Amsterdam – only 40 kilometers away – will of course be part of the programme.The real die-hards are welcome to do that by bike to, but we advise you to take the train…

Utrecht_oude_grachtGolden Times: The event is really five days long?
Maarten: The 28thwill be the arrival day. Depending on the time of arrival of all participants, we will have an activity in the city, followed by four days of programme. On the last day, the 2nd of April, we will all hitchhike to Mannheim. Don’t worry, it will take only about five hours and transport for the luggage will be arranged. The fee is 90 Euros, for which you’ll get accommodation, three meals a day and our amazing activities!

Deadline for applying is the 14th of February.More information:
Facebook group:
Application form:
Mail to the organisers: