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Dear Imcistas,

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 quite complicated.

There are 5 imc's in Belgium : www.indymedia.be, wvl.indymedia.org (West Vlanderen), liege.indymedia.org, ovl.indymedia.org (Oost-Vlanderen), antwerpen.indymedia.org. And a besyn.buffaloimc.org 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 www.indymedia.be administrators).

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 administrators.

- 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 ( http://archives.lists.indymedia.org/new-imc/2003-September/004485.html Link : Han wrote www.indymedia.be accepted the proposal but need one year to disbanding itself).

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 ( 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 diversity.

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 www.indymedia.be ).

- 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 administrators.

*****************

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 ImcNantesPrinciples of Unity?



Topic revision: r3 - 21 Jan 2006, AlsteR
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