Fact Check: Belgian TV Channel Did NOT Post Message Criticizing Israel That Interrupted Eurovision Broadcast-- It Was Trade Unions' Protest

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Belgian TV Channel Did NOT Post Message Criticizing Israel That Interrupted Eurovision Broadcast-- It Was Trade Unions' Protest Unions≠Channel

Did Belgian public broadcaster VRT make an editorial decision to intentionally interrupt Eurovision song contest coverage to express its protest against Israel's actions in Gaza? No, that's not true: The message that appeared on the TV screens was posted by VRT unions, not VRT, a spokesperson for the TV channel confirmed to Lead Stories. One union openly wrote about that on Facebook on the day of the event, May 9, 2024.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on X, formerly known as Twitter, on May 9, 2024. It opened:


Belgian public TV channel VRT posted this message as a protest:

'This is industrial action. We condemn the human rights violations committed by the State of Israel. Moreover, the State of Israel is destroying freedom of the press. This why we stop the image for a moment.'

Well done ♥️

This is what the post looked like on X at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-05-13 at 12.41.07 PM.png

Twitter screenshot(Source: X screenshot taken on Mon May 13 16:41:07 2024 UTC)

Though the entry on X shared what appeared to be an authentic screenshot of a message, it was initially posted not in English but in Flemish, as seen in a fragment of the broadcast uploaded on YouTube (archived here).

As translated by DeepL, the first line of the address stated:

This is a union action.

On May 13, 2024, VRT spokesperson Anne Stroobants shared the channel's statement with Lead Stories via email, and that statement differentiated between the public broadcaster and its unions:

The statement was a trade union action - by the trade unions of VRT, not by VRT (the broadcaster) itself.

For additional context: trade unions always have the right to take action and they do not need our (VRT's) permission to do so.

The union named ACOD-VRT publicly took responsibility (archived here) for the action on its page on Facebook, which was automatically translated into English by Google Chrome.

A news article (archived here) about the incident that was published by VRT News, which is a separate division, quoted a union representative, Ilse Orbaen, who also drew a line between the union and the TV channel. Orbaen is quoted in the article, as translated by Chrome, as saying that the protest was, in part, against the VRT decision to broadcast the contest, which is organized by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU):

The fault lies with the EBU, but broadcasting the match is a policy choice of the VRT ... we did not want to let this go unnoticed.

Another VRT News article (archived here) summarized international coverage of the issue, attempting to set the record straight -- that the message was posted by an autonomous organization, not by the broadcaster, and that it was shown at the beginning and end of the broadcast and did not interrupt the performance of the Israeli singer competing in this year's contest.

Both articles acknowledged that the message was criticized by Jewish organizations.

The Brussels Times (archived here), a major English-language news outlet in Belgium (archived here) and not affiliated with VRT, reported too that the action was carried out by the unions, not by the public broadcaster.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about the Hamas-Israel war that began on October 7, 2023, can be found here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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