'Xenophobic' comments hit debutant news anchor on first day on the job

'Xenophobic' comments hit debutant news anchor on first day on the job
On her first day on the job, social media users addressed xenophobic comments to anchor Salima Belabbas. Credit: Screenshot

On her first day on the job, a Belgian news anchor on Thursday received an onslaught of "virulent" comments and reactions that have been qualified as racist and which have since been condemned by her employer.

As she made her debut as presenter of French-language broadcaster's RTL midday news show, some users on social media addressed comments of a xenophobic nature to Salima Belabbas.

One of them reportedly asked whether it was possible to "let a Belgian read the news in Belgium."

RTL promptly removed the comments and said it had been "shocked by the virulence of the reactions addressed to a member of its staff."

The Francophone broadcaster called on the media sector to take proper action against instances of discrimination, regretting that the means of action against such acts were still too "limited."

"Every [act] of discrimination must be properly sanctioned", the broadcaster said in a statement. "The means of action against xenophobic and hateful remarks remain too limited, even though they are supposed to be severely punished by law."

Belgian audiovisual watchdog, the CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel), saluted RTL Belgium's quick and appropriate moderation of the "hateful comments," and said it was supportive of measures aiming to increase diversity in the audiovisual sector.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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