Back in mid-May we broke the story that a group of European far-right activists had tried to disrupt an NGO ship in the Mediterranean.
Since then we have monitored the progress of Defend Europe, part of the so-called Identitarian movement, as it has raised nearly €100,000 and managed to acquire a ship to take its mission to the next step: blockading search-and-rescue missions and putting lives at risk at sea.
Thankfully the international press has begun to take notice of these developments and has reported on these deeply troubling events.
With such high stakes it is imperative that the press covers Defend Europe responsibly. Unfortunately, this was not the case on Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan yesterday, when at no point during an interview with Martin Sellner, a leader of Defend Europe, was it mentioned that Sellner was a far-right activist from a far-right movement, or one which had a proven track record of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant politics.
Worse still, when asked if Defend Europe intended to block NGO ships Sellner called that a “misrepresentation” and stated “we don’t want to block anyone”, instead he described plans as a “search and rescue mission”. This was left unchallenged despite being a barefaced lie.
Sellner himself has stated: “Now we are able to organise a real mission with a big ship that will cruise in the Mediterranean and block those NGO ships from going to the Libyan coast”, while on Defend Europe’s website and in promotional videos the group has said it would block and “confront” NGO ships.
An early version of the FAQ page of the Defend Europe site stated that it aimed to cause the NGO ships to alter their routes and drain the charities of their financial and organisational resources. Back in May, activists from Defend Europe actually tried to stop an MSF vessel from leaving port on a rescue mission.
Similarly, an extended package by Yalda Hakim on last night’s BBC Newsnight program also failed to explain to the viewers that Defend Europe was made up of prominent far-right anti-Muslim activists and even showed exerts from the Identitarian’s own propaganda videos.
It is certainly positive that prominent media platforms such as the BBC and ITV are covering this important issue, but it is imperative they don’t allow Defend Europe a free pass to portray themselves as mainstream and respectable when they are anything but.
The danger is that, if left unchallenged, Defend Europe could prove to be a major propaganda coup for the far-right Identitarian movement, which will use this mission to fundraise further and expand.
We have already seen the ‘launch’ – at present it is just a Facebook page – of Generation Identity Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, the “newest branch of the pan-European Identitarian movement”. This is just one example of how the Defend Europe project is capturing the imagination of the international far right.
To make sure the press fully understands the prejudiced motivations of Defend Europe and to inform NGOs and activists about what we know about their plans, we have produced a detailed briefing that includes the details of their ship and their stated objectives plus profiles of key activists and an explanation of the Identitarian movement itself.
We have also commissioned a legal briefing that will outline the exact maritime laws Defend Europe could break should it enact its plans.
It will also include the legal rights of anyone who comes into contact with these far-right activists while at sea. This will allow us and the affected NGOs to know exactly what to look for when Defend Europe’s ship reaches the Med and will allow us to push for prosecutions should the far-right activists break any laws. We will also continue to work to shut down their funding routes, a tactic which has already proved fruitful.
The launch of this briefing is just the start of our plan to raise awareness, promote accurate reporting on the issue and to minimise the possibly lethal impact of this far right plot.DONATE
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