Apache.be is a small media organisation, undertaking journalistic investigations in disinformation, polarisation, and radicalisation in Belgium, as well as into disinformation in general.
What does Apache do?
Bram Souffreau, co-founder and non-editorial coordinator of Apache: “Apache is a collaboration of investigative journalists publishing revelations, news and analysis in a quarterly magazine and on a website. Apache Magazine and Apache.be are set up in Dutch and are mainly read in the Flemish part of Belgium. Different topics are touched, but the main ones are real estate, the colliding of business with politics, extremism and important societal trends such as housing, climate change and the future of our agriculture. A team of seven investigative journalists works every day on the dossiers and the received tips. Apache is owned by a cooperative. The shareholders are the readers and journalists of Apache. They make sure Apache and its investigative journalism can exist.”
Why is Apache collaborating in the CrossOver-project?
Bram: “Disinformation and fake news are polluting the debate in Belgium and worldwide. In a healthy democracy people discuss and debate. We don’t advocate that everyone thinks the same. Not at all. But debating should be done with facts or arguments based on facts and visions, not with wrong or manipulated information.
Apache doesn’t know that much about disinformation in Belgium. That’s why we were very interested when we first heard about Crossover from our partner EU Disinfo Lab. Monitoring social platforms, detecting disinformation and analysing and assessing its impact is very important. We are very happy that we can do that for the next 15 months”
What will Apache do in the CrossOver-project?
Bram: “We are the journalists. Our task is to work with the gathered information. Check First provides us with raw material through the dashboards. EU Disinfo Lab will dig up information about disinformation as well. And together we will analyse the info, investigate the instigators, actors, narratives and targets and finally disclose what we have learned and unveiled. The outreach will happen through Apache, but we will also collaborate with other media and organizations.”
How do you think we should tackle disinformation?
Bram: “This is a difficult question. A lot of remedies have been proposed, but not all seem to work, otherwise we wouldn’t have that much disinformation in our society. I think some actors have to finally take their responsibility and stop acting as if they were only a platform without any controls. It’s a message to social media firms and tech firms, but not only them. We, the media, should also be more conscious about the gatekeeper task, and the impact that it has.
Identifying the disinformation is also important. That’s why we collaborate with the CrossOver-project. And the last important action is media literacy. Not only for kids, but for everyone in our society. People should learn how to navigate old and new media, and what the dangers are, how they can intercept fake news, for instance. It’s kind of weird that the internet is so ubiquitous in our world, but several generations of users have never been told how to use it.”
CrossOver is a cross border and a multilingual project. How do you cope with those challenges?
Bram: “We are looking forward to working together with partners around Europe. Communication will be important, but that’s the case for every project. I don’t really see it as a challenge, but more as an enrichment for the project. Belgium is at the crossroads of cultures, languages and societal philosophies. It will be very interesting to see how it will influence the project.”