[Marxism] Paris’s Voiceless Find a Megaphone Online

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 5 10:27:13 MDT 2015

NY Times, July 5 2015
Paris’s Voiceless Find a Megaphone Online

BONDY, France — They gather every Tuesday for a staff meeting, bloggers, 
journalists and young people from the impoverished Paris suburbs, at the 
offices of the Bondy Blog, named for the surrounding neighborhood. The 
subject of a recent meeting: how best to challenge the leader of the 
Socialist Party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, during his appearance on a 
monthly talk show, “The Bondy Blog Café.”

“Like in every love story, there is disillusion,” Nordine Nabili, the 
publisher of the blog, told his rapt audience, crammed around a table in 
one of the offices last month.

The Socialists received a large share of the vote in Bondy and in other 
banlieues, as the suburbs are known, in the 2012 elections that 
propelled the party’s candidate, President François Hollande, into 
office. But those suburban supporters, many of them immigrants, say they 
have little to show for it.

“At this point, nobody here even cares if the National Front is 
elected,” one of the attendees said, referring to the far-right party. 
“They have lost hope in this government.”

The blog, which was created during the riots that spread through France 
in 2005, gives a voice to groups often underrepresented in mainstream 
news media coverage. Self-described citizen journalism, the Bondy Blog 
regularly reports on politics and social issues, with many of the 
writers sharing scenes and moments from their lives at work or in the 

The blog, which has 220,000 visitors a month, has won awards for its 
work, and its journalists regularly collaborate with outlets like 
Télérama, Elle, Le Monde.fr, Canal Plus, L’ Obs and Radio France.

Over the years, the blog has evolved into a rich source for scholars, 
journalists and activists interested in the banlieues, said Hisham D. 
Aidi, a Columbia University researcher and the author of “Rebel Music,” 
a study on Muslim youth politics in Europe and the United States that 
discusses the Bondy Blog.

“The French establishment is a little uncomfortable with them,” Mr. Aidi 
said in an interview. “The American Embassy often consults and invites 
the journalists to come to the United States. It gives voices to 
banlieue residents. Most of the journalists are from the community, and 
of immigrant background. And now they will send a journalist to do a 
story on police brutality in the U.S., or if Muslims are better off in 

While some in the establishment may be uncomfortable with the Bondy 
Blog, that has not stopped a procession of politicians from making the 
pilgrimage to its offices.

“Politicians jostle to come here,” Mr. Nabili said with a smile after 
the prep session, standing in front of a board full of newspaper and 
magazine covers and clips that mention the blog. “We are over-quoted in 
the media, because there is a huge void in these neighborhoods to fill.”

In 2005, riots broke out in the banlieues after two teenage boys, Zyed 
Benna and Bouna Traoré, were killed after running away from a police 
check. A journalist, Serge Michel, who worked for the Swiss magazine 
L’Hebdo (not related to Charlie Hebdo), decided to cover the riots from 
inside the banlieues. He set up in a makeshift office in Bondy, in 
northeastern Paris, and began following the story on a blog, which he 
handed over to local journalists after he left.

While the blog’s contributors have been praised for their reporting, 
their greater purpose is to give voice to the voiceless, and they are 
not shy about expressing their opinions.

Widad Ketfi, 30, one of the blog’s top writers, explained her approach 
as she covered the trial this year of the two police officers involved 
in the 2005 case. She readily admits that she was furious when the two 
officers were cleared of the charges, and made sure her coverage 
reflected that.

“At the trial, I was so emotional and angry that I wasn’t a journalist 
anymore,” Ms. Ketfi said. “I can’t get used to the cynicism of other 
journalists. And that court decision was an insult to the people in the 

Ms. Ketfi, who has been writing for the blog since 2007, has graduated 
to working for mainstream news media like Canal Plus and M6 television. 
An influential voice in social media, she was also featured on the cover 
of Le Monde in 2010. She traveled to Gaza to cover the war there last 
summer for the Bondy Blog.

She likes to describe herself as a “no-go zone” reporter, a reference to 
Fox News reporting early this year, inaccurately, that the French and 
British police avoided some predominantly Muslim neighborhoods because 
they were dangerous.

“When I started writing for the Bondy Blog, I had a desire to change the 
way young people from the banlieues were portrayed in the media,” Ms. 
Ketfi said. “We live in these neighborhoods, so we have a different 
outlook and a better understanding and approach.”

The daughter of Algerian immigrants — her father is active politically, 
but cannot vote — Ms. Ketfi went to journalism school after discovering 
a passion for reporting at the Bondy Blog.

She is unapologetic about being an opinionated journalist.

“Journalists take a side on matters, but don’t realize it,” she said. 
“For example, when they write ‘Je suis Charlie,’ ” she added, referring 
to the rallying cry heard after the terrorist attack on the satirical 
newspaper Charlie Hebdo, “it is not a neutral stance, which is perfectly 

In January, the French left-leaning newspaper Libération began hosting 
the blog on its website. The blog’s reputation has reached across the 
Atlantic, and the actor Samuel L. Jackson paid it a visit in 2010. The 
organization even got Serena Williams, winner of the French Open last 
month, to give tennis lessons to local children.

Islam is a major subject for the blog, though it does not consider 
itself a Muslim publication. “Islam is something that many journalists 
still don’t know well,” said Faiza Zerouala, whose parents are from 
North Africa. She also found her calling at the blog.

“The Bondy Blog tries to remove the blinders that newsrooms continue to 
wear,” she added. “A whole section of society in the banlieues is 
ignored in France. Many topics like Islamophobia and racism are not 

Ms. Zerouala wrote a book, “The Voices Behind the Veil,” in which she 
talks about the diversity of women who are not afraid to show they are 
different, and wear the head scarves known as hijabs to show their 
Muslim faith.

“There is a majority discourse in France about women wearing a head 
scarf being submissive,” she said. “It is always the same analysis.”

Ms. Ketfi does not wear a head scarf and has never felt like an outsider 
in France. But she believes the local news media stigmatizes Arabs and 

“You feel attacked,” she said. “In newsrooms, reporters are careful not 
to say offensive things in front of me, but they have shown on several 
occasions that they have a bias against Muslims.”

Mr. Nabili, who also teaches journalism, said he viewed his work at the 
blog as an investment in France’s next generation of journalists. With a 
state-funded budget of about $135,000 a year, he manages to pay 
contributors around $45 an article. Every year, about 18 students are 
selected for a prep course to apply to journalism schools.

“The media are a mirror of what society is,” he said about the negative 
coverage of migrant communities. “Our success is to see girls or boys 
who arrive at 18, 19 and cannot even look at you in the eye, and see 
them today anchoring the evening news.”

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