Molenbeek mayor to sue British journalist for defamation
The mayor of Molenbeek is seeking to file a civil suit against British journalist Katie Hopkins for depicting the Brussels neighborhood “the European capital of jihadism.”
“What this journalist did is inexcusable,” Molenbeek Mayor François Schepmans told Belgian outlet La Dernière Heure on Thursday. “In her comments, she’s shown a real desire to break Molenbeek.”
Katie Hopkins, a British journalist known for her anti-Muslim views, earlier this week accosted Schepmans in the street and grilled her on local authorities’ apparent failure to detain Salah Abdeslam — one of the perpetrators of the 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people — despite the fact he was known to police.
Schepmans, who claimed she was not aware she was speaking to a journalist and that the interaction was being filmed, responded by explaining that local authorities were not in a position to detain Abdeslam, as it’s the “job of the federal police.” The exchange was later posted on Twitter.
“It happens to me often that a person on the street comes up to me and wants to talk about the neighborhood, but it’s usually in a positive way,” Schepmans said. “[Hopkins] was sitting on a bench and I never imagined she was a journalist. But she kept talking about the same thing and I gave her the same explanation several times, so that aggravated me and I left.”
Hopkins also published a misleading tweet Tuesday that included video footage of a warehouse fire in another neighborhood. She suggested the “explosion” took place in Molenbeek, which she called “the Jihadi Capital of Europe,” and was related to the start of Ramadan.
The tweet “presented a truncated image of Molenbeek and depicted it as the European capital of jihadism,” Schepmans said. “She’s attacking all of its residents and we cannot allow that to continue to happen.”
Schepmans said she intends to propose launching a civil suit against Hopkins for defamation during a municipal council meeting on Friday, and that she would inform U.S. network Fox News — which regularly works with Hopkins — of the incident.