Brussels daily Le Soir goes Dutch

The Francophone daily Le Soir is not entirely a Francophone daily today. On Tuesday the newspaper published a special edition in which the first five pages were all in Dutch.

Le Soir says that in this way it wants to explain to Flemish readers how it operates and provide an answer to the Flemish nationalist leader, Bart De Wever (photo).

Director Didier Hamann: "For a number of years now we have seen how our reputation goes downhill in Flanders. It's due to a lack of knowledge about our newspaper as well as clichés promulgated by Mr De Wever."

Le Soir hopes that it's partly Dutch edition will help to convince Flemings of its good intentions. "Make up your own mind" is the message of this special edition. Editor-in-chief Béatrice Delvaux: "We want to convince the North of the country that in contrast to the caricature that the Flemish nationalists make of us, that we are very passionate about and very interested in what you think."

Relations between the Flemish nationalists and Le Soir have been troubled for some time. A Le Soir columnist once called on Mr De Wever to be interned. Flemish nationalists often refer to the paper as "La Gazette des Milles Collines", a reference to the Rwandan radio that ran a hate campaign at the time of the Rwandan genocide. Le Soir is also peeved because Mr De Wever is refusing all contact with its journalists.

Béatrice Delvaux explained that the paper was forced to find a new way of addressing the people of Flanders. She also pointed to repeated efforts by the paper to build bridges between Belgium's majority Flemings and minority Francophones. In the past Le Soir has shared a joint project with several Flemish newspapers or given space to Flemish opinion makers.