This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of July, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 31 July 2018
Media outlet: Le Parisien, daily newspaper published in Paris and suburbs
Headline: “Ultra right: the secrets of the founder of the AFO group”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: In this question-&-answer interview, the daily Le Parisien gives voice and credibility to Guy Sibra, leader of a French far-right terrorist group called AFO (Operational Forces Action). At the end of June, Guy Sibra, a former police officer, was detained for a few days on “criminal terrorist association” charges. He was later released, but the investigation is ongoing and he is under police surveillance. According to the judges, the AFO group was found in possession of 36 weapons and was planning to attack French-Muslim citizens including women wearing hijab’s, imams as well as Muslim singers. The questions asked by the paper allow Guy Sibra to promote his Islamophobic views whilst denying he has any (“They [the judges] told us we want to poison halal food. But now, again, what would be the purpose? It is so stupid compared to throwing pork in front of mosques”) and defending himself (“We are not looking to fight but defend and help ourselves in a humanitarian way”). By giving him a voice without challenging any of his racist and violent statements, the newspaper is normalising xenophobic violence and criminal acts.
Myth Debunked: Perpetrators of previous Paris attacks have not been interviewed by French newspapers before, nor have terrorists who are under surveillance. When giving voice to a far-right terrorist, Le Parisien acts irresponsibly because it gives credibility and normalises racist and violent acts, as if they are worth listening to, and as if they are not harmful. The media have the power to influence public opinion, slowly making acceptable what was once nit. A recent study published on the British Journal of Political Science has analysed the case of the populist far-right UKIP party in Britain, showing that media coverage drove party support but not vice versa. In other words, it has proved that media attention towards populist right-wing parties increases support for them. GTTO partner Licra questioned the choice of Le Parisien to publish this interview: “Between unconscious culpability and clickbait, how could Le Parisien give voice to this individual?”
More to read: