This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of June, 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.
Date: 20 June 2019
Media Outlet: social media
Description of racist and anti-Muslim content: Belgian journalist Salima Belabbas was attacked with racist comments on social media after presenting, the RTL Info news bulletin at 1pm for her first time. On Facebook and Twitter, a number of news watchers questioned her suitability to conduct the news programme based on her ethnicity and her name. The comments were racist, Islamophobic and antisemitic. Many said that Salima Belabbas should present the news in her country of origin, and requested “a Belgian person to be the host of a TV show in Belgium”. This incident happened nine months after similar abuse was addressed to Cécile Djunga, weather presenter on RTBF.
Myth Debunked: This incident shows that the voice of journalists of colour is still relatively absent in Belgian media. According to those who attacked Salima Belabbas, journalists in Belgium should be white (and Christian) to be deemed suited for the job or, in other words, you cannot possibly be Belgian (or European) if you have a migrant background. This dangerously racist sentiment stems from white nationalist ideologies. White nationalism, as explained by the ADL, “defines a country or region by white racial identity and which seeks to promote the interests of whites exclusively, typically at the expense of people of other backgrounds”. In the light of these hateful comments, RTL moderated and deleted those posted on their social media pages and called the Movement against Racism, Antisemitism and Xenophobia (MRAX), a Belgian governmental body. Furthermore, while the broadcaster will not file a lawsuit, it plans to draft an effective plan to protect its employers. The French main regulatory body for broadcasters CSA praised RTL’s efforts.
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