In Belgium “Xpress” was born, a new association of journalists with offices in Brussels, Liege and Antwerp. It intends to support journalists who, because of their work, suffer threats, intimidation and spurious lawsuits. It also proposes to defend journalists’ sources and informants, who suffer similar attacks. The declared purpose is: to help every journalist, photojournalist, film maker and every other media operator to defend themselves against threats and intimidation from people they deal with whilst carrying out information activities. The founders are several Belgian journalists who have suffered threats and retaliatory lawsuits because of their investigations.
The idea materialized in November 2018, in Brussels, after a meeting that one of the promoters, David Leloup (investigative journalist from Liège, one of the founders of the investigative journal “Medor” and collaborator of “Le Vif l’ Express”) had with the journalist Alberto Spampinato, founder and president of the Italian observatory “Ossigeno per l’Informazione”.
The association was launched on the 6th February 2019 in Brussels where it was presented by the promoters with a press conference at the Brussels Europe Press Club and an exchange of messages and mutual commitments to work with Ossigeno per l’Informazione. During the press conference, the Italian NGO presented “Xpress” with the Ossigeno Memory Panel which, under the slogan “Seeking the truth”, portrays the faces and names of the 28 Italian journalists killed in Italy by the Mafia, the Camorra , terrorism or abroad, in theatres of war.
The Panel was presented by Maria Laura Franciosi, the journalist representing Ossigeno in Brussels, to David Leloup with the hope that Xpress will give “a shot in the arm” to Belgian reporters who need it. It now hangs in the Xpress office.
What is XPRESS and what does it intend to do
During the presentation the founders described Xpress as summarized below.
There are four cornerstones on which the new association is founded:
1. show: report to the public the intimidation against journalists and their sources
2. help: technical, legal or financial assistance to journalists subject to intimidation
3. digging: reinforcing with support investigations what the journalists reported
4. lobbying: making politicians aware of intimidation and attacks on journalists and putting pressure so that legislation that affects freedom of expression and information is always able to guarantee the protection of journalists, their sources and their informants.
Presenting “Xpress” were Thierry Denoël, journalist from “Le Vif / L’Express”, Mehmet Koksal, a freelance journalist who works for the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and Bram Souffreau, a journalist who collaborates with the investigative site “Apache” .
In Belgium there are cases of the intimidating use of lawsuits that are very reminiscent of what happens in Italy. During the presentation those present mentioned some examples. A European company has asked a freelance journalist for compensation of € 50,000 for an article. The newspaper “Le Vif L’Express” gave full solidarity to the journalist. The managing director of the company Nethys has denounced the European Federation of Journalists for having reported to the Council of Europe the intimidation of David Leloup and Tom Cochez. Mehmet Koksal said that the legal costs incurred in the event of a libel lawsuit are a big problem.
Born on the initiative of some Belgian journalists, themselves threatened with legal action because of their investigations, “Xpress” wants to offer media workers (print journalists, online and radio and TV news and photojournalists) the support they need to conduct investigations without having to fear the threats and intimidation from members of the political or financial world which are the subject of their articles.