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This page has been created to give the opportunity to ex-members of www.indymedia.be and Belgian local collectives to express their point of view about indymedia in Belgium, especially about the ongoing so-called situation inside www.indymedia.be, causing much of the problems of the site, such as the dislocation in several collectives because the impossibility for us to work on the national site. You have to know that a lot of us are more and more fed up to shut up since years and by the regular lies from some of www.indymedia.be about the real situation. That's why we decided to write this text to expose PUBLICLY the reality and we hope it'll open the eyes of the rest of the network on the seriousness of the situation in Belgium... These are our distress rockets !!
(This text is regularly updated and the final version will be sent to Global.)
First of all, what's the PTB/PVDA ?
It stands for "Parti du Traval de Belgique" (Workers's Party of Belgium) and is a political party which methods are based on Stalinists and Maoists theories. The PTB has a clear political agenda : it preaches for the dictatorship of the proletariat by "reducing to silence its enemies of class"1. Nobody doubt that, because its extreme sectarianism, other left tendencies are also to be considered as such and hence blacklisted .
The PTB has illustrated itself by its large support to different criminals of war and dictatorships in the world.
How does the PTB/PVDA work and why is it so dangerous ?
The PTB offers to its new members an initiatory course by which they will receive a orientated political formation. These formations are in fact a low form of propaganda and it is not rare to find ridiculous deformations of History like the negation of the existence of the goulags! And yes. That's what we call brainwashing.
From a financial point of view, the PTB does not have to complain, all its members have the obligation to have wages of workman, exceeding of these wages is directly transferred in the funds of the party. It explains why they have enormous means at their disposal but also why they don't have any difficulty of shorting the other organizations in Belgium ; because not glad to have set up a number phenomenal of satellite organizations, the PTB also tries to infiltrate activists associations not yet under its control.
Here we are, do we have to consider that www.indymedia.be would be one of "putsched" victims?
We don't know if it exists a real ambition from this party to control indymedia in Belgium because they have trouble to understand the interest of an open media, but maybe we are wrong.
Yet, what we are sure of is that some of the key-members of this party have a savage will to control these alternative media by all the possibilities including by trampling the principles of indymedia if necessary.
The back of the decorations of www.indymedia.be is really much less glittering that they are obstinated to make it believe. The situation is constantly getting worse since the last 3 years in an alarming way. Almost the totality of former active members has left2, most of them quickly replaced by direct or indirect members of the party. Not much of a surprise since the building where www.indymedia.be has its offices belongs itself to the PTB. And now they form a crushing majority which doesn't have to care about anyone questionning its authority anymore.
How the situation with www.indymedia.be degenerated at this point and why we weren't able to do something against?
The idea to form an indymedia was born in the offices of "Regard Crois\xE9" (an association itself linked to the PTB). The proposal was then of launching a call to increase the starting group. More than thirty participants had answered this call and there was a very large diversity. At this moment, it was a "real indymedia".
Then seeing this growing success, certain people, very discrete at the beginning, started to take an increasingly imposing place. These people, all members of PTB, started then to merge to form a hard core. It's this "hard core" composed only of 5 or 6 people which pushed people one by one to leave from the nest like a cuckoo (the bird). Subsequently, the decisions by consensus were not respected any more, the freedom of expression was briskly flouted and the small group could dictate its law. That's why, over the time, so many members , disgusted by such an attitude started to quit. Others tried for months and even years to reason the hard core but themselves were pushed to leave because of the pressures and the war of attrition3. As the number of people who resisted fell, the number of member of the PTB on the other hand increased. What worsened the situation because the hard core had an increasingly power. There is a proverb which would be appropriate to illustrate this problem: "When disgusted people go away, there remains only disgusting people".
Today this long-run putsch by some members of PTB can be verified by facts:
Abuse and diversion of the image of indymedia
During the past elections, they did excessive promotion4 for their own political party where they were themselves candidates. The members non-PTB who criticized this large promotion were ignored5 or attacked verbally with aggressivity and the critics from readers were massively hidden6.
Indymedia represents for them an excellent propaganda tool for their party and all its satellite organizations.
Also dismaying, they received more than 12.000 euro from the Pascal Decroos's funds to finance the book of Han Soete on the mediactivism7 (some who read it, say that it contains in fact a pure propaganda for the PTB), we wonder also why the benefits of this book would not return to indymedia instead of filling the pockets of its authors.
More serious, they also received in the name of "indymedia" nearly 25.000 euro coming from the foundation King Baudouin, a governmental organization. Like indymedia is not supposed to be directly financed by a governmental organization, they invented the "media circus" collective8 to receive these funds. We don't know what happened of the totality of these sums9, a little part of this money seems to be used to buy 2 portable PC and 1 digital camera but what about the remainder ?
They said also that they receive between 1000 and 2500 euro per month10, this money would be used to pay the hiring of the server and the low rent of their offices. The story doesn't say what they do with the cumulated surpluses every months.
To receive some other funds, they created "GetBasic" (the media-circus bis), this project is now financed by the flemish government through some social funds, their contract with them says they'll have 150.000 euro each year for 5 years (so 750.000 euro !)11
Total loss of recognition and credibility
The PTB took such an importance inside www.indymedia.be that in less 3 years it lost completely its credibility to the eyes of the alternative and activist public. A large part of associations and collectives refuse to publish on www.indymedia.be anymore because they see it like a vulgar puppet orchestrated for and by the interests of the PTB.
It is important to note that a lot of people in Belgium think indymedia is a part of the PTB. This image affects and will affect undoubtedly for a long time the Belgian local collectives, which, are really independent from any political organization. It's not even rare that during a demo, people ask us in the street if we are ourselves from the PTB. This dislike explains why so much people don't want to take part to indymedia in Belgium.
No respect of the freedom of expression
All critics against the PTB (and its satellite organizations) are systematically hidden or even completely erased12. The freedom of expression is very restricted because a lot of articles and comments are hidden massively according to the mood of the regulator for reasons as eccentric as arbitrary13. We counted more than 16.000 articles/commentaires hidden in less than 4 years14, which makes an average of 10 hidden per days.
Concerning the editorial charter, it's simple :never been written, although a text not really clear and very vague is available (allowing a great number of abuse)15. Text which they never really applied anyway. As soon as a person starts to criticize their organizations or even the methods of indymedia.be, that person is directly accused of being "fascist"16. This wether you be reader or member of the others/local Imc.
In the past, they even tried to impose their own rules17 to indymedia Holland by asking them to hide an article blaming an organization related to the PTB of which one of admin Belgian is an imminent member. Indymedia Holland of course refused the ask, especially when it's done under the constraint. No need to say that the same article posted on www.indymedia.be didn't last long, and that the contents was replaced18. This article caused a dispute in www.indymedia.be because a total dissension between some non-PTB members who considered this article as acceptable and the PTB members who judged being autrorized to hide all anonymous articles/comments as excuse (which is violation against the POU because people are allowed to use anonymity).
In general, the censure works like this at www.indymedia.be: that starts by a simple article/comment which is wrongfully hidden, the reader thinks about an technical error so he reposts it. Then he's surprised because it disappears again, so his first reflex is to ask "why his contribution is hidden?". But his question disappears also still without justification. The person irritated, asks again but the moderator finds now the excuse of "spam" to hide it, ect... If the reader wants to ask by mail then, there's a lot of chance this mail won't pass ever. Here's how they shut up people who protest against their methods.
Violation of the transparency
They had ingenious idea to remove the link towards the hidden stuffs on the home page. After that they stopped to send automatic mails to announce that contents were hidden (it goes without saying that it was done without prior agreement). So like this, it's impossible to know how much articles/comments were hidden, for which reason and by who.
They also practise the complete blanked out of the articles/comments. They even justified it by saying: "if it's not written in the edito rules that it's prohibited, so it means we can do it". This kind of logical authorizes a great number of adrifts.
Management completely hierarchical and contempt of the consensual rules
The hard core acts in a scorning and dictatorial way. They don't need any agreement to act like they want and they do not care about the opinions of the others. Another problematic is also the internal discrimination, for example they refused to give an access on the site to a guy simply because he was too much anarchist for them. It was the same thing for the management of the mailing lists where they ignored 2 non-PTB members who asked to have an access on them19. Later, the passwords of non-PTB members were changed so that they can't have access on their account any more (no need to say again that it has been done without somebody was warned or was consulted). Some complained also to be unsubscribed from the lists or been set on no-mail.
Again a good example, during a big action (Get in shape), we decided to put into private the list of co-operation for Belgian local indymedia's because some personal informations (phone numbers) have been sent by error, so we wanted to avoid that police can use it against us. Jumping on the occasion, the hard core directly put all its lists into private20 without asking or trying to understand. It's only with the help and the pressures of non-PTB members (who left) that some of these lists has been put back to public21. Note that today all their lists are private except one and the list of members is accessible only to the admin.
You have to know that all the public addresses are under the control of only one person, so by that way they act like a real filter and it's technically impossible for us to know how many people complained about their methods of operation.
Tolerance and non-existent diversity
Since they chased away people, www.indymedia.be is now composed in reality of only 3, 4 active persons22 (the hard core of course). It arrives in difficult times (by a pure coincidence) that members emerge after several months of absence. But in all cases, we can certify that at least 90% of the people are PTB. The others are that we call "satellites", it means they don't say clearly they're from the PTB but they've got a strange relation with it.
The last meeting of www.indymedia.be is a good example where we counted more than 15 members from PTB, the rest of people is unknown but there is a lot of chance that big part of them are from the same party. This large presence is not without objective, once www.indymedia.be is in danger, it seems that a part of PTB is mobilized. The second reason is also that some of them are using the local cells of PTB to start a local indymedia in the same town as the existing local indymedia's, thus they can shorting them.
Disastrous co-operation with other (Belgians) initiatives
Because their sectarism, a majority of www.indymedia.be doesn't wish to collaborate with the others indymedia in Belgium or elsewhere. They're not present to global or local level which tends to prove us that they're more interested by the image of indymedia than by its project.
Concerning the relation that those maintain with the Belgian local collectives, it's catastrophic. They tried to sabotage the build of Imc Wvl by pushing people against each other, they also launched a smear campaign against 2 recent local collectives: they insinuated several times that indymedia Liege had been set up by the PC (Communist Party)23 and that indymedia Ovl had been formed by an emerging ecologist party. This shows very well ambient paranoia and the prejudices they've got toward the others indymedia which they see like some "political adversaries".
Confidence that those have is at a point such as they used a spy (ro)bot named "NR30" which was placed on the IRC channels of the local collectives, after several days and many messages from us, it didn't answer, that's only once we discovered the bot has the same IP as the offices of www.indymedia.be that it started to speak. They spend also their time by insulting or by doing some spams on the sites24 of local collectives under anonymous names but we can easily recognise them because their static IP. Lately we heard from readers that they didn't find our site because indymedia.be purged their cities list and 3 belgian local imc's have been erased from it... We can prove that with the help of 2 screenshots (before and after the modification)25.
Remoteness from the principles of indymedia and the open-publishing
www.indymedia.be is organized like a corporatist press, in their mind, the actors are not the regular visitors but rather the writer team who have the duty to inform the readers. This team of drafting (composed again of the hard core) has got its own edito meeting where they discuss the futur events they want to cover "or not" because some of them think there is too much attention on the anti-globalist movement26. That explains why sometimes they even prefer to cover the same subject as mass-media27 than an alternative event.
You can easily check what we mean by seeing their articles included in the central column, more 3/4 of them are written by the team of drafting and not by the regular visitors. So, there's no reflexion between the real content in the newswire and the content in the middle column. this fact doesn't encourage the people to publish any more. Some readers complained also about the fact their contribution didn't have the attention they deserved.
ImcNantesPrinciples Of Unity violated by indymedia.be (barred)
1. The Independent Media Center Network (IMCN) is based upon principles of equality, decentralization and local autonomy. The IMCN is not derived from a centralized bureaucratic process, but from the self-organization of autonomous collectives that recognize the importance in developing a union of networks.
2. All IMC's consider open exchange of and open access to information a prerequisite to the building of a more free and just society.
[3. All IMC's respect the right of activists who choose not to be photographed or filmed.]
4. All IMC's, based upon the trust of their contributors and readers, shall utilize open web based publishing, allowing individuals, groups and organizations to express their views, anonymously if desired.
5. The IMC Network and all local IMC collectives shall be not-for-profit.
6. All IMC's recognize the importance of process to social change and are committed to the development of non-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian relationships, from interpersonal relationships to group dynamics. Therefore, shall organize themselves collectively and be committed to the principle of consensus decision making and the development of a direct, participatory democratic process] that is transparent to its membership.
7. [All IMC's recognize that a prerequisite for participation in the decision making process of each local group is the contribution of an individual's labor to the group.]
8. All IMC's are committed to caring for one another and our respective communities both collectively and as individuals and will promote the sharing of resources including knowledge, skills and equipment.
9. All IMC's shall be committed to the use of free source code, whenever possible, in order to develop the digital infrastructure, and to increase the independence of the network by not relying on proprietary software.
10. All IMC's shall be committed to the principle of human equality, and shall not discriminate, including discrimination based upon race, gender, age, class or sexual orientation. Recognizing the vast cultural traditions within the network, we are committed to building [diversity] within our localities.
2 Active members who left:
4 Propaganda for the PTB during elections:
5 Protestation of non-PTB members:
6 Critics massively hidden:
7 Media-activism book:
8 Media circus:
9 Donation of 24.750 euro:
Donation 12.394,68 euro:
10 Regular donations:
11 750.000 euro from the flemish government:
12 Some examples:
13 Nice example:
14 Number of articles/comments hidden:
15 Their edito text:
17 Pressures on Imc Holland:
18 Article modified:
19 Ignored requests of access on mailing lists:
20 Lists on private without any conscensus:
21 Protestation against lists on private:
22 Actual active members:
Antonio (La Braise) - PTB
Rosario (La Braise) - PTB
Jonathan (La Braise) - PTB
Manolis - PTB
Redkitten (Chengetheworld) - PTB
Mehdi (Chengetheworld) - PTB
G\xE9rard - PTB
Peter (Intal) - PTB
Raf - Satellite
Danny - Satellite
23 False accusations against Imc Liege and Ovl:
24 An exaustive list of their regular provocations on the local sites:
25 3 local imc erased from the cities list:
26 Too much antiglobalists: