[Imc-communication] Indymedia in Belgium quick historic
arnaudleblanc at swing.be
Sat Apr 30 09:10:53 PDT 2005
I'm Arnaud, I'm from Liege Imc in Belgium. I began working Indymedia in
Belgium in September 2000. I left the www.indymedia.be collective in 2003
when was set up the liege imc.
It seems that our proposal of disaffiliation has been misunderstood by the
far away imc's and it's quite logic because our situation in Belgium is
There are 5 imc's in Belgium :
wvl.indymedia.org (West Vlanderen),
limburg.indymedia.org. And a <http://besyn.buffaloimc.org/fr/> syndication
site gathers all Belgian sites. (For the moment, all imc's are collaborating
with each other except one: www.indymedia.be)
Quick summary of the Belgian situation:
- In June 2000 was set up the Belgian imc (one of the first imc in Europe
after UK ). At that time, the project gathered a diversity of activists and
great work was done. There was a big participation in the Prague IMC in
September 2000, in Nice in December, Davos in January 2001, Genoa 2001 and
Brussels in December 2001. During that time, the site was well functioning,
a diversity of activists were publishing on the site themselves.
- After December 2001, some internal problems began to appear. The site
began losing its reputation and there was less and less diversity in the
newswire. At that time, nothing was done to solve the problem and try to
gather back a diverse public. In the same time, the site became the target
of spam (some by extreme right wing people but also and mostly from
activists that were censored by the edito team because of their critics
-mainly against the Belgian Workers Party and the links with
In parallel appeared some internal problems in the edito team about the use
of censorship. But as we used consensus to take decisions, the decisions to
put back articles on showing were easily blocked by one or two
- During the year 2002, the first local imc of Belgium get through new-imc :
Indymedia West-Vlanderen. This was a project from very active people from
www.indymedia.be and the most active at the global network level. Those
people wanted to work in a more local way and more closely to Belgian
activists in their diversity. As they didn't want to make a fuss, they kept
working with Indymedia.be (tech and other stuffs).
In the same time, critics from the Belgian activists against Indymedia.be
were growing. During the Belgian elections of that year, several features
and big coverage's were published about political parties where some
administrators of the site were very active. To respond to those critics,
the edito team chose to add one feature with all the leftwing party. But
they didn't try transparency, preferring hiding articles and comments than
explaining people their policy.
At that time, www.indymedia.be received money from the Belgian state.
Officially, this is an other association that received the money but the
Belgian funding organisation gave officially the money to "Indymedia" (
<http://www.kbs-frb.be/code/page.cfm?id_page=127&id=1827&lang=EN> Here's the
official link to the state funding where it's written that they fund
"Indymedia"). After this funding, the same technique will be used to receive
money every year from the state.
In the summer of 2002, the non-party members insisted on the setting up of a
process to ensure the diversity of the collective. That's why the imc
Belgium process list was created. The process itself was never really
launched until the next big conflict in October 2002 which leads to a last
attempt of reconciliation on 11/11/2002. After that failed meeting people
started to leave the collective, soon after that imc-activists started
looking into the possibility of setting up more provincial or smaller than
national scale imc initiatives.
- In 2003, the problems kept growing. At that time, it was impossible to
walk in demos in Belgium with an www.indymedia.be stickers without receiving
critics (about the leading from Belgian Workers Party in the edito team,
about the censorship .). That year, several activists living in Liege and
working for www.indymedia.be chose to follow the West-Vlanderen Imc example
and some activists from Oost-Vlanderen follow in their neighbourhood
(Belgian local imc's were also opened in Limburg, Antwerpen, Brussels). They
passed through new-imc and they open alternative Indymedia in Belgium .
At the end of the year, a proposal was made to share a common tool, a
syndication site that would syndicate all features and articles from local
imc's and www.indymedia.be . So that, all indymedia news in Belgium would
automatically be gathered on one site. In a very first time,
www.indymedia.be seemed ok with it but they asked one year to pronounce
themselves on the subject (
Link : Han wrote www.indymedia.be accepted the proposal but need one year to
At the human level, people from all side became angrier about critics, spam
etc. And discussion became more and more difficult.
- In 2004, the situation on www.indymedia.be stayed the same (lots of spam,
lots of censorship, and lots of claim of censorship.). Local imc's became
more and more active and some activists began to publish back in Belgium
(the only major spams and flame comments on local imc's were discussions
where www.indymedia.be administrators were involved in).
It was the time when local imc's asked officially to www.indymedia.be
administrators to share the national url (
<http://www.belgium.indymedia.org/> www.belgium.indymedia.org ) to put the
syndication site to gather all news from Belgium (like in UK, Italy, Brazil,
Oceania.etc) and not only a part of it. Slowly, the www.indymedia.be
collective responded (4 months after the proposal) that they refuse to share
the url. They proposed some alternative urls that have nothing to do with
the national url. They consider the syndication site as a project, not as a
way to gather all Belgian sites on the same url to respect the Belgian
So, the local collectives asked officially to imc-process that the
syndication site get the "Belgium.indymedia.org" url. The proposal was
blocked by www.indymedia.be and Brisbane imc. They claimed it was an attack
against their collective and a will to destroy them and not respecting their
"diversity" (some administrators of www.indymedia.be also reacted on the
imc-process list that the people who did the proposal should be some kind of
fascists or liberal people).
>From that time, there are lots of examples where www.indymedia.be erases
links to local Belgian imc's from articles and comments. They also edited
articles and comments to change the name of the authors of spam or critics
in some local imcs administrators' name. They also did flame comments on
articles that were criticizing www.indymedia.be on local site and they asked
local sites administrators to hide those critics.
During all that time, it was impossible to critic www.indymedia.be or the
Working Belgian Party on www.indymedia.be . Naturally, most of the people
left in the www.indymedia.be collective are link to this party's way of
thinking and lots of them were very active in the party (as militant,
journalist etc.). People from different mind don't want to be linked to
www.indymedia.be's reputation in Belgium (for example, several serious Human
Rights associations claimed on their website that there is anti-Semitism on
-In 2005, it appears also that the links to local sites were erased from the
cities list on www.indymedia.be . The administrators of the site explained
that by a technical problem (even now, the edito team of www.indymedia.be is
still erasing links to other Belgian imc's in comments and articles).
As the situation doesn't change in a positive way, Indymedia Liege asked the
disaffiliation of www.indymedia.be because of the non-respect of the PoU
(about censorship, diversity, cooperation etc. see the request). The main
motivation of this request (more than the non-respect of the PoU) is the
impossibility of collaboration with www.indymedia.be and the impossibility
for local imc's to be considered as Belgian imc at the same level as
www.indymedia.be . But it is also motivated by the fact that the bad image
of www.indymedia.be among Belgian activists give local imc's hard work to
convince people to participate in the Indymedia network and the fact that
local imc's are losing lots of energy to deal with www.indymedia.be
As solution for the problem in Belgium, Mediation is a good thing but it
should be done by an Indymedia volounteer. Local activists don't know
anything about the PoU, about the Indymedia network, the Indymedia
dynamics... Local Belgian imc's will certainly agree with the mediation of
any active imc volunteer. Laila, clara, vlo, anna and changsing already have
proposed themselves to do it.
But the main solution is that all imc's in Belgium share the same url
(belgium.indymedia.org) through the syndication site. The site is automatic
so that no collective can ignore another. In that way, collaboration will
come naturally (maybe it will take some months but it will come).
But there is still the problem of the respect of the PoU. Is it normal that
an imc can decide not to respect so much Principles of Unity?
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