Remembering Conny Mus

Journalists recall late Foreign Press Association chairman as agitator for press freedom, and a good friend.

conny mus 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
conny mus 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“It’s a shame that Conny had to die to bring us all together like this.”
The sentence reverberated on Monday from the 10th-floor rooftop of Jerusalem Capital Studios, from which the late Conny Mus, chairman of the Foreign Press Association and longtime reporter for RTL – which he joined at its inception in 1989 – had broadcast so frequently.
Veteran journalists who had worked with Mus or whom he had helped at one time or another came to pay tribute to the oncelarger- than-life man for whom journalism had been not just a calling, but a passion.
In the weeks preceding his sudden death on August 20 while vacationing in his native Holland, Mus had been looking forward to his 60th birthday and had planned to have a big bash on October 21.
Simon McGregor Wood of the BBC, a former chairman of the FPA, recalled Mus as a constant agitator for press freedom, and related an episode in which foreign journalists had been trying unsuccessfully to get into Ramallah.
An army jeep came by, picked up speed as it went past Mus and spattered dust all over him. He gave the soldiers the finger, cursed them roundly in Dutch, and then chased them in the direction of Ramallah.
Gabi Rosenberg, president and CEO of Jerusalem Capital Studios, where Mus had his office, spoke of a close relationship that had begun some 27 or 28 years ago, and of a man who had lived life to the fullest.
“I wish we were all here to celebrate Conny’s 60th birthday,” he said. “He was a brave and original journalist.”
Brechtje van de Moosdyk, RTL’s managing foreign editor, who came specially from Holland for the occasion, said she had been Mus’s editor for 12 years at RTL in The Netherlands. Mus covered wars, unrest and natural disasters from Baghdad, Iraq, Gaza, Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and anywhere else in the region.
A generation of viewers in The Netherlands grew up with him and learned about the Middle East through him, she said, because he looked and talked just like they did, and he explained things in easy language.
Journalist Irene de Kruif, who worked with Mus in Jerusalem and had met him when she was still an inexperienced reporter, credited Mus with having changed the nature of war journalism in Holland.
He came with stories about real people, she said, and he showed where things were happening.
According to Daniel Seaman, the outgoing director of the Government Press Office, Mus was the first foreign correspondent he had gotten to know. Mus used to argue with him a lot over what he perceived as infringements on the rights of journalists, but he was also there to give advice and to help wherever possible.
“He knew how to get around the rules,” said Seaman, and often presented so convincing an argument to anyone trying to stop him, that they ended up believing what he told them. The most important thing was that he was always able to get the story.
Before taking on his job at the GPO, Seaman never used to drink.
Mus insisted that he couldn’t spend time with journalists and not drink, and gave him a bottle of whisky. In the long run, Seaman confessed, he had actually come to enjoy whisky – “but more than anything, I enjoyed his company.”
According to fellow Dutchman and documentary film maker Willy Lindwer, Mus was one of the first Western reporters to interview Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Afterward, Lindwer said he’d asked Mus, whose Hebrew was perfect, what Haniyeh had said.
“How should I know?” replied Mus. “I don’t speak Arabic.”
Mus’s partner, Marika, said they’d had so many plans about things they wanted to do together.
They had been working on a book, which she intends to finish.
Mus was the kind of journalist depicted in adventure fiction. But he was very real – a man of passion, compassion, courage and integrity.
His was a voice that will be missed not only by his family, friends, colleagues and RTL viewers, but by the many underdogs for whom he was a champion.