Dutch PM Mark Rutte questioned after deleting text messages for years

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has defended himself after reports that he has deleted years’ worth of text messages from his mobile phone.

De Volkskrant newspaper reported that Rutte may have deleted important communications related to the country’s COVID-19 pandemic strategy.

Under Dutch law, certain government correspondence must be kept for public access and accountability.

But Rutte said he had forwarded important messages for official archives and had only deleted ones on an old Nokia to free up “storage” space.

“I complied with the directives,” Rutte told reporters on Wednesday, adding that he had never “deliberately” hidden important messages.

A lawyer representing the Dutch state said on Tuesday that Rutte had carried out “real-time archiving” and that there was no reason to suspect foul play.

De Volkskrant has reported the Prime Minister had personally decided which messages should be deleted from his phone.

The newspaper had launched a court case in 2020 to access Rutte’s messages but said it was surprising that it only received correspondence from the prime minister to his staff.

Rutte is well-known in the Netherlands for his frugal attitude, regularly cycling to work and refusing to use a smartphone.

The PM said that thousands of messages on his Nokia had caused the device to slow down, which is why he started deleting them.

Rutte’s press officers meanwhile added that he now does own a smartphone, as his old phone had no signal during a recent visit to the US.

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