Thursday, 28 February 2019 13:53

Belgium – 7sur7 Gives Platform to Antisemitism through Images Used in News Report

In an article discussing a self-proclaimed ‘Hitler fan’, Belgian news platform 7sur7 features an image of him performing the Sieg Heil salute with a Nazi flag in the background. This is Belgium’s media monitoring highlight for February.

This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of February, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.

Belgium MMHDate of publication:  15 February 2019

Media Outlet:  7sur7, news outlet based in Brussels


Headline: “’Yes I'm a Hitler fan’: open investigation against Keerbergen's self-styled Nazi”

Description of the antisemitic content: This article is about a man, Georges Boeckstaens, in the Belgian village of Keerbergen, who has identified himself as a ‘Hitler fan.’  Boeckstaens has decorated his home with a variety of offensive Nazi symbols, many with the swastika. The article’s main image is of Boeckstaens performing the Sieg Heil salute, with a Nazi flag in the background, as well as a wooden swastika sign. The article also includes several photos of different Nazi ‘decorative elements’ to the house. In the piece, Boeckstaens is quoted saying: “Yes I describe myself as neo-Nazi, a Hitler fan.” The author of the piece informs the reader that the public prosecutor’s office in Leuven has opened a judicial inquiry against Boeckstaens, following a complaint. The complaint is based on Belgium’s law on Holocaust denial, passed on 23 March 1995, which makes it illegal to publically "deny, play down, justify or approve of the genocide committed by the German National Socialist regime during the Second World War".

Myth debunked: It is dangerous and unethical to use distressing images in a news report that offer no informational value. Images featuring Nazi symbolism and the Sieg Heil salute are extremely distressing, as they directly relate to the Holocaust and the terrors endured by Jewish people. In this case, the images are not newsworthy and offer no value to the public. It is ironic that the article talks about Belgium’s law on Holocaust denial whilst spreading these images; by giving a platform to such imagery, 7sur7 is helping spread Boeckstaens’ hateful Nazi rhetoric. This case could have been reported on professionally without using these images for example  an image of just Boeckstaens’ profile could have been used instead. Mainstream media has a duty not to normalise hate, a duty which 7sur7 has failed in in this case.  

More to read:

The Only Way is Ethics: When is it right to publish a distressing image?

Challenging Hate Speech - A Dilemma for Journalists


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