May 9, 2002 Posted: 1049 GMT

Newspapers ran with pictures of Fortuyn's death    

AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands -- The Dutch press has talked about its "repugnance" at the murder of right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn.

Newspapers on Tuesday said that democracy and freedom of speech had also died when the outspoken anti-immigration and openly-gay party leader was shot dead.

"Much is still unclear about the murderer's motives, but what is clear is that the Netherlands has lost its innocence thanks to this repugnant and incredible attack," said a front-page editorial in the De Volkskrant newspaper.

Fortuyn, 54, had campaigned on an anti-immigration policy and had attacked Islam as being a "backward" religion.

Trouw daily newspaper wrote in an editorial: "It is painfully clear that this is an attack on the very soul of democracy. When free speech is buried in a hail of bullets, that's the end."

De Volkskrant said: "Something that seemed possible only in faraway, politically-riven countries has happened in the Netherlands."

Conservative newspaper De Telegraaf added that the attack was cowardly and odious -- not just a blow against Fortuyn but on a "parliamentary democracy where freedom of speech is central."

"The proverbial tolerance of this country, where political murders had been banished for centuries, has been struck at its core."

The newspapers also entered the political debate on whether the election should have been postponed as a mark of respect.

De Volkskrant said the cabinet faced a no-win dilemma -- postponing the elections could trigger accusations of trying to scupper support for Fortuyn's party while going ahead could mean the vote was distorted by shock at the murder.

Algemeen Dagblad, the newspaper of Fortuyn's home city Rotterdam, said postponement could be seen as an "unacceptable capitulation to violence."