BELGIUM: Brussels-based NGOs are audited following their Israel-Palestine coverage

Extract of article by Charlotte Deprez, published by Bruzz on 20/10/2023 – accessible here.

Flemish Minister-President and Minister of Culture Jan Jambon (N-VA) has an inspection carried out at De Wereld Morgen (located in the Vooruitgangsstraat in Schaerbeek) and Vrede vzw from Ghent. This is done in response to their coverage of the war between Israel and Palestine. He said this in parliament on Thursday after a question from party colleague Marius Meremans.

Both non-profit organisations are subsidised under socio-cultural adult work. To receive subsidies, the organizations must “apply the principles and rules of democracy and the European Convention on Human Rights in their operation,” Jambon said. Now the organizations are being investigated to see if they violated it.

In addition to the inspection at Vrede vzw and De Wereld Morgen, Jambon instructed his administration to screen all organizations that are subsidized within this decree for the communication and messages they spread through their channels.

Organisations that commit an infringement can be sanctioned. “A sanction may include discontinuation, reduction or recovery of the subsidy,” Jambon said.

Editor-in-chief of De Wereld Morgen Jeroen Permentier is not worried in the short term. “The World Tomorrow defends the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. We also condemn Hamas’s actions, but we place them in a historical context. I don’t see to what extent we are violating human rights as a result.”

From 1 April 2024, there will also be stricter subsidy conditions for socio-cultural adult work. “The new decree states that organizations must take on a bridging function in society and that organizations that work in a segregated way are not eligible for subsidies,” Jambon said in parliament.

Permentier thinks that’s a concern. “It is clear that the minister wants to be able to decide more about which organisations will or will not receive support. What is happening to De Wereld Morgen en Vrede vzw is disturbing. But the real problem is that there is an attack on Gaza right now. If you want to capture human rights violations, it is better to look at what is happening in Gaza, instead of the opinions that De Wereld Morgen spreads.”