The Troll of the Month is an episode we choose every month to expose racist and anti-religious haters and to show the positive outcomes in the fight against intolerance in Europe.
Belgian Het Laatse Niews website (HLN) has corrected a deceitful article, after the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) sent them a complaint letter.
In an article published on 6 March 2018, journalist Miriam van den Broek reported about a wedding procession that stopped on the A12 highway in north Belgium and created disruptions. The headline of the article stated: “Turkish wedding procession creates chaos in Zeeland”. Further down in the text, Ms van den Broek mentioned again that the procession was Turkish.
However, the police press release never stated that the wedding procession was Turkish or that it had any relation to the Turkish population in Belgium. Other newspapers and news agencies did not attribute any nationality to the people in the procession.
This error was spotted by the EUJS monitor, while monitoring the media for Get the Trolls Out. He sent a letter to HLN asking to confirm that they received the information on the nationality of the people in the procession from trustworthy sources and, if not, to correct the article.
“We are concerned about the stigmatization brought by these types of articles,” the complaint letter sent by EUJS stated. “They reinforce the stigma that Turks can’t behave while driving and further creates the idea of their disregard for the rules and laws."
HLN did not respond to the letter, but promptly changed the article, editing out the attribution of Turkish nationality to the people in the wedding procession.
The largest groups of non-EU foreigners in Belgium are Moroccans (living mainly in Brussels-Capital Region) and Turks (living mainly in Flanders). Reports in the past have raised concerns on discrimination against these national groups. According to the second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU MIDIS) published in December 2017, one in five persons of North African or Turkish origin have been victim of discrimination while seeking employment in Belgium.
Journalists should not mention the ethnicity, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation of the people featured in the article, unless it is strictly relevant to the story. This is especially important for crime reporting. More so if the information is not even confirmed by the police or other reliable sources.