Three Dutch media outlets are taking the European Union to court after it labelled them “misinformation outlets” on a publicly funded website.
Dutch regional daily De Gelderlander, the country’s most popular blog Geenstijl and news site The Post Online have summoned the EU to an Amsterdam court demanding allegations that they spread fake news be taken down.
The three complainants also want to see the website EU vs Disinfo issue a correction.
EU vs Disinfo describes itself as being part of a “campaign to better forecast, address and respond to pro-Kremlin disinformation” started by the EU.
It says it “draws on existing resources within the EU institutions and the member states, including staff from institutions and seconded national experts from member states”.
One of the articles in question labelled as “fake news” and “disinformation” by the site appeared in De Gelderlander titled “Buk manufacturer rejects MH17 conclusions”.
The article is a brief report of a press conference held by Buk missile manufacturer Almaz-Antey in reaction to a report into the attack on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down above Ukraine with a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board.
According to EU vs Disinfo, the whole technical report of the Buk manufacturer “was based on false facts, rigged by Ukraine to accuse Russia”.
It blasted the Dutch newspaper and concluded: “The outlet uncritically reports the disinformation pushed by pro-Kremlin outlets.”
The paper’s lawyer, Jens van den Brink, hit back, saying: “De Gelderlander is branded as a ‘disinforming outlet’ simply because it reports about a press conference of a party affiliated to the Kremlin.
“Like media solely have to give the point of view approved by the EU.”
Bizarrely, the same article appeared in numerous other regional dailies under the umbrella of De Persgroep which publishes the Dutch newspaper, although these were not branded as “disinforming outlets”.
According to the court summons: “De Gelderlander simply reported on a press conference, which is quite a common activity for the press.”
According to the lawyers of the Dutch daily, the complaint that the article is fake news because a press conference was reported “uncritically” shows that “the EU wants to control information”.
They wrote: “The acts of the EU also damage the pluralism and editorial freedom of the media.”
Articles on Geenstijl and The Post Online reported unfavourably on the political climate in Ukraine.
According to EU vs Disinfo the article on Geenstijl, which writes about fascist groups gaining a foothold in Ukraine and thriving corruption in the country, “repeats older disinformation about [the] regime in Ukraine”.
Even though the article on Geenstijl linked to sources such as an interview in The Guardian and reports from NGO Transparency International as well as UN body the International Organisation for Migration, EUvsDisinfo said that “no supporting facts [were] given” in the article.
Geenstijl’s lawyers said the site had “freedom to present opinions and facts from different camps, and to not limit its reporting to EU-approved news”.
The EU did not respond to a request for comment on the case.