Did "Belgian patriots" rise up and overthrow the Belgian Government for signing the UN Global Compact on Migration? No, that's not true. The Belgian cabinet did fall and it was over support for the UN pact but there was no "uprising" (just a demonstration of about 5,500 people) and most people marching in it would be offended to be described as "Belgian patriots". An American fake news site got several key facts about recent events in Belgium hillariously wrong.
The story originated from an article published by the American website NewsPunch on December 19, 2018 titled "Belgians Rise Up & Overthrow Gov't For Signing UN Global Migration Pact" (archived here) which opened:
Outraged Belgian patriots have risen up and overthrown their deceitful Prime Minister after he signed the UN Global Migration Compact against the wishes of the nation's citizens.
Belgium's leftist Prime Minister Charles Michel has been forced to resign after protests rocked Belgian streets after he signed the UN Global Migration Compact, effectively opening Belgium's borders to unlimited immigration, as well as making it illegal to criticize migration.
After four years in power, the 42-year-old Prime Minister offered his resignation to the Belgian monarch, King Philippe, on Tuesday night, after widespread protests on the streets of Belgium and a vote of no confidence in parliament.
Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:
Belgium's Prime Minister has been forced to resign in shame
This story gets so many things wrong (which is not unusual for NewsPunch, formerly known as YourNewsWire). They criticized us in the past for reporting on U.S. issues while not being American:
Lead Stories is a website operated by a single liberal man from The Netherlands. Why anybody would believe what he writes about news from the USA is beyond me.-- Your News Wire (@yournewswire) 5 december 2018
And even in that criticism they got things wrong:
In fact it is run by a Belgian and an American. Check our "About" page. You can't even get easily verified facts straight in a tweet. Some news source you are :-)-- Lead Stories (@LeadStoriesCom) 6 december 2018
Why anyone would believe what an American fake news site writes about news from Belgium is beyond me, but let's point out the inaccuracies in just those opening paragraphs.
- Outraged Belgian Patriots: the picture illustrating the article shows someone waving a Flemish flag during a December 16, 2018 demonstration in Brussels against the UN Migration Pact.
The march was organized by Schild & Vrienden, KVHV, Vlaams Belang Jongeren, Voorpost, NSV and several other groups. One thing they all have in common? They are all Flemish nationalists seeking an independent Flemish state and the dissolution of Belgium. Calling them "Belgian patriots" to their face would be considered a grave insult by many of them. It would be like calling an American deeply involved in the Confederate heritage movement a Yankee.
- "risen up and overthrown": There was one demonstration of about 5,500 people that turned violent:
A protest against a U.N. migration pact turned violent Sunday as some 5,500 people marched in Brussels in a rally organized by Flemish right-wing parties. The demonstration was in response to the migration pact which was backed by more than 150 countries - including Belgium - at a United Nations conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, last week.
Because of the presence of many European and international organisations in Brussels the city hosts hundreds of demonstrations per year, many of them a lot bigger than this one. The demonstration did not "overthrow" the government, that happened through normal parliamentary procedure (not even involving the parties and groups protesting in the street).
- "Belgium's leftist Prime Minister Charles Michel": Michel's party (MR - Mouvement Réformateur) is considered centre-right by Belgian norms and is widely seen as the main opponent for the Parti Socialiste (socialist) and the Parti du Travail de Belgique (communist) in the French speaking part of Belgium.
- "forced to resign": This is the most accurate bit of the story but it happened because one party that was part of the governing coalition (N-VA) withdrew its support in parliament because the government intended to sign the Global Compact on Migration. This left the remaining government parties without a majority. After failed attempts by the Prime Minister to secure support from other parties he ultimately resigned. Note that the N-VA was not the party calling for the demonstration in Brussels.
- "effectively opening Belgium's borders to unlimited immigration, as well as making it illegal to criticize migration": this is total nonsense and not what the text of the pact says at all. And even if it did, the pact says it is "non-binding" so it is quite a stretch to say it is "effectively" doing things and "making things illegal".
- "a vote of no confidence in parliament": No such vote took place. There was talk in parliament of having one but Prime Minister Charles Michel resigned before it happened. This is similar to saying Nixon was impeached (while he actually resigned before the final vote in that process could take place).
NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes newspunch.com as:
A news and conspiracy website that regularly publishes false information and far-right conspiracy theories. The site was formerly housed under the domain yournewswire.com.
According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.
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