Flemish TV under fire over Blok’s success
22 June 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgium’s Flemish public broadcaster the VRT on Tuesday reacted angrily to suggestions that it helped the far-right Vlaams Blok make major gains in Belgium’s 13 June regional elections.
In a three-page editorial published in several Belgian newspapers, 29 journalists from the public sector broadcaster brushed aside criticisms that VRT had presented the far right Blok like a normal political party by inviting its members to join in many of its political broadcasts.
“The Blok has advanced not because of but despite the media. No one knows how to deal with the Blok … but a defensive approach or an exclusion of the Blok is no longer the question of the day,” the journalists insisted.
A number of newspaper editors and academics suggested VRT should have refused to welcome Blok politicians into its studios.
Two Belgian he sociologists, Bea Cantillon and Koen Raes, cited in La Libre Belgique newspaper criticised “Doe de stemtest,” one of VRT’s light hearted weekend programmes for not taking politics seriously enough during the election campaign and making the Blok seem like just another party.
Rik Van Cauwelaert, the editor of the news magazine “Knack”, went even further.
“The way the VRT informed people about the Blok was a scandal,” he said bluntly.
La Libre Belgique suggested that there might have been political pressure on VRT to take the line it did on the Blok.
The newspaper pointed out on Tuesday that the public service network’s governing council already had two Blok members sitting on its politically appointed governing council before the 13 June poll and that after the Blok’s electoral success that number is set to rise to three.
Earlier this year a Gent court ruled that the extreme right party regularly breaks Belgium’s anti racism laws and if the verdict is upheld, the Blok stands to lose millions of euros in state funding every year.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news