NETHERLANDS – The €4bn pension fund PNO Media is to introduce the lack of press freedom as an exclusion criterion for its investments.

The Dutch scheme will now halt new investments in government bonds in segregated mandates in 21 countries.

It will also initiate an engagement process with fund managers about ceasing investments in China, according to Jeroen van der Put, director of the scheme's pensions provider.

"We also discussed investing in media companies to actively support press freedom, but we concluded this would be impractical," he added.

For its exclusion policy, PNO Media will follow a UN list of countries that "structurally violate" press freedom, such as Cuba, Egypt, Yemen, North Korea, Syria, Belarus and Myanmar.

Although the pension fund has investments in several other countries on the UN list, the amounts involved are much smaller, according to Van der Put, who declined to indicate the scale of PNO Media's investments in China, citing the pension fund's policy.

As part of its three-year update of its code for responsible investment, the media scheme also decided to blacklist the US companies Honeywell and URS, as well as UK company Rolls Royce, due to their involvement in the development of nuclear missiles.

Van der Put said US company Raytheon would get the "benefit of the doubt for the time being", as it no longer appeared to be involved in the development of nuclear missiles.

Pressure group Campaign against Weapons Trade recently criticised PNO for having stakes in companies involved in weapons manufacturing, and Van der Put has said the scheme was "grateful for their free advice on this".

The media scheme also decided to introduce the protection of health and wellbeing as a criterion for engagement.

"We will assess in particular how these companies provide access to medicines," Van der Put said.