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The Associated Press July 14, 2010, 2:10PM ET

Dutch competition watchdog fines publisher

The Dutch Competition Authority says it has fined publisher Koninklijke Wegener N.V. euro19 million ($23.88 million) for flouting instructions aimed at guaranteeing the independence of two newspapers after a takeover.

The competition watchdog says it allowed Wegener to buy rival publisher VNU Dagbladen in 2000, if it kept one of VNU's newspapers, BN/De Stem, separate from another paper Wegener already owned, the Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant.

The move was intended to preserve competition in the southern Dutch region of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, where both papers have editions.

The authority said Wednesday that Wegener instead "harmonized" the papers' editorial departments.

Wegener has called the fine an attack on press freedom and says it will appeal.

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