Coverage by the British press of immigration issues is considered inexact, one sided, and on certain occasions, negative. Experts in communication are asking for new legislation to keep racism out of the news.
Headlines such as “Muslim schools forbid our culture”, “Strangers in our own country” or, “Keep out, Great Britain is full” have occupied the front pages of the British press. Sensationalist language without a doubt, and racist towards immigrants. According to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), complaints about the poor information given by the media regarding migration have increased.
The most common subjects in the press are “refugees, asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and migrant workers” although “Islam and terrorism” are gaining ground.
The attacks on the tube in London, perpetrated by the terrorist group Al Qaeda, which took place on the 7th of July 2005, lit the touch paper for the radicalization of certain editorials.
Of course the economic situation and the increased migratory flow in recent years have also had their repercussions, not forgetting the commercial and political interests of editorial groups.
Conscious of the importance of the press in the consolidation and formation of public opinion, the PCC offers a style guide for journalists, in an attempt to prevent “discriminatory” treatment that occurs with reference to refugees and asylum seekers. Many experts believe the guide written by the Commission to be obsolete, and think it necessary, given the actual economic and migratory context, to establish greater measures to prevent racism in reporting.
Much of the information and opinion divulged about the mass arrival of immigrants to England, has influenced society, the Transatlantic Trends study confirms.
The document points out that 70% of Brits criticise their government’s management of immigration, and some 65% consider immigration “more of a problem than an opportunity”
The work of journalists is also behind the erroneous social perception that exists about immigration.
According to The British Future, a quarter of Brits believe that 30% of the population are foreigners, that is to say 20 million people. A figure somewhat removed from the official data, which only has 7.4 million on record.
The influence of the media on social attitudes is reflected in data offered by the IPSOS Mori analysis. Statistics demonstrate that those who read the news are more worried about supposed problems caused by immigration, than those who do not.
In global terms, and according to the declarations of president of the Association of European journalists in Great Britain, William Horsley, the media treatment of the subject of immigrations is positive, in spite of occasional errors.
Horsley recognises that a one of moments which saw most journalistic criticism of immigration, was the opening of the UK border to 10 new European Union countries in 2004.
The British press is known for diversity, rigour, and a variety of tone and focus. In Great Britain there are those who practice responsible, high quality journalism – such as the BBC and The Guardian. On the other hand are papers such as The Daily Mirror and The Sun, well known for carrying sensationalist stories.
Even at a moment when public television is being investigated for it’s coverage of immigration, religion and the European Union, it is the commercial press that has received the greatest number of complaints
As observed by Migrants’ Rights Network, the Daily Mail has, through its sensationalist reporting, managed to accuse migrant mothers of the shortage of hospital beds. Controversial and inaccurate information purported by the organization, does not inform readers of the reality of “a lack of staff and a reduction in the number of beds” in hospitals.
The Leveson Inquiry, a study which came into being because of the need to analyse press coverage of immigration, affirms that there is indeed a sector of the British press that does not treat minorities with sufficient “dignity and respect”.
What’s more, headlines such as “Muslims tell us how to manage our schools” or “Christmas is not allowed: it offends Muslims” means that the media is contributing to “a negative perception” of foreigners.
Among the most common errors, the Leveson inquiry points out that “people are not given the full story, priority is given to political posture and there is a lack of truthfulness and exactness” in articles.
For Jorge Sampaio, spokesperson for the Alliance of the Civilizations of the United Nations, the seminar “Covering Migration: Challenges met and unmet”, which took place last January, offered professionals tools and knowledge with which to “counter misinformation and distortion” of information about immigration. Among the informative deficits, Paloma Cruz mentioned to The Prisma, exists the need for “journalists specialized in this kind of writing”.
Moreover, the member of the International Centre for the Study of Communication in Latin America noted that the media “tend to use racist and stereotypical language, which doesn’t give a voice to immigrants or to grassroots organizations”.
“There is a growing interest in the subject of immigration, new specific media and programs appear. The arrival of specialized professionals offers a greater vision of the migratory phenomenon, they can discover the stories behind the statistics, and talk about context, something fundamental” she added.
“Criminals, delinquents, opportunists” are some of the terms that on many occasions accompany the word immigrant in the news. However the large part of the media in Great Britain has an anti racist stance in their editorials.
The migratory flow from Eastern European countries has made the front page of papers such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. In recent months up to 700 articles have been put together on the subject, all with differing voices which each speak of negative treatment in that regard.
But it is the language that is used in sports reporting, where it is considered that the greatest number of errors occur. Recently, due to the Olympic Games, a study was undertaken of how the media had treated two athletes who gained gold medals and who are not from the United Kingdom.
The Observatory of Immigration at the University of Oxford showed that on occasion when talking about Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, two sportspeople not from the UK, the media used terms associated with their racial or cultural origins but made no mention of the colour of their skin.
(Translated by Thomas Andrew Wright – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)