Lack of money, time and expertise are some of the reasons that explain the weak and biased information the media give about immigration to Europe. In the case of the UK, another study reveals how coverage during the Brexit campaign was to a large extent focused on immigrants.
Marcos Ortiz F.
Among human rights activists, refugees and organizations this is perhaps the most recurring criticism in defence of immigrants. The large media organisations are biased, prejudiced, poorly informed and guilty of discrimination. Accusations are launched daily, but are rarely backed up with evidence or are so only in isolated cases or with personal anecdotes.
That has been the case so far according to an in-depth study, conducted in 17 countries, after it took up the challenge and addressed the issue with the seriousness it deserves.
Entitled “How do the media on both sides of the Mediterranean report on migration?’’ the report entrusted to the Ethical Journalism Network has attempted to answer this question by analysing media coverage in 2015 and 2016 in nine countries in the European Union and eight south of the Mediterranean .
The conclusions were decisive. On both sides of the Mediterranean, the press lacks resources and is unable to give the time, money and expertise necessary to report migration in its context.
In turn, the analysis showed that newsrooms are often susceptible to being influenced by the pressure, manipulation and hate speeches of the political elite and social networks.
Migration as a problem
The large numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean in recent years have filled the pages of newspapers in these countries. However, this coverage has accentuated the view of migration as “a problem” without showing it as a multifaceted issue that offers opportunities as well as challenges.
Among the forgotten aspects are the successful migration stories, the huge number of opportunities migration offers and the fact that all Mediterranean countries have a long history of migration.
The study also reveals that in speaking about migration the focus tends to only be on immigration, and this in many cases is related to illegal immigration, marking “us” out as different from “them”. This coverage begins by focusing on the emotions and reflecting empathy for those fleeing war zones, but the tone rapidly changes and the coverage of those arriving is hostile, stereotyping them as being associated with crime and terrorist threats.
The situation is heightened in the case of social networks and some online media, which in the hurry to be the first to publish, leave room for speculation and rumour which only encourage the misinformation.
The Spanish situation
The chapter on Spain, for example, confirms how the story of the 3-year-old little Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi – found dead on a Turkish beach – led to a change in the coverage of much of the press which for the first time began to wonder why so many thousands of people were willing to risk their lives for a better future.
The situation in Spain, however, is controversial, since the media have tended to emphasize immigrants arriving in the country, without considering the huge number of Spanish citizens (more than 700,000 according to a study from 2013) leaving as a result of the economic crisis.
The study confirms how in this case the label of ‘‘migrants’’ is avoided and there is only talk of “Spanish living abroad.”
This chapter, prepared by renowned journalist Jose Miguel Calatayud, reveals how photographs and television images try to show the migrants as poor and passive young men.
Most shots are taken from above, showing them as small, while when it comes to rescuers and police officers, the images are taken from below, which makes them look more important.
But not everything is the responsibility of the media, says the report, because, and in agreement with journalists, the majority of the problem lies with the authorities who lack transparency as regards the information. Free-lance journalists, but also those who hold permanent positions in the newsrooms – blame lack of resources and support for not being able to do their jobs properly.
What is happening in England?
While the report did not include England, a study conducted by King’s College London reviewed more than 15,000 articles published by 20 British media organisations in 2016 during the Brexit campaign.
The study showed that the economy and migration were the two most covered issues. In fact, media interest in immigration tripled during the 10-week campaign, making the front page on 99 occasions. The vast majority – 79 of them – were published by Brexit-friendly media organisations. Among the nationalities that stand out as having received most negative coverage are the Turks and Albanians as well as the Romanians and Poles.
Among online media organisations which stood out for their negative coverage the Mail, the Sun and the Express – blaming immigrants for the economic and social problems that afflict the UK and in particular putting unsustainable pressure on public services – are highlighted.
With regards to newspapers offering ethical and independent reporting such as The Prisma, that this is the only Media dedicated to dealing with migration, in a serious, professional and committed way so as to defend migrant communities, especially Latin Americans.
It is in fact the only newspaper that has consistently reported abuse and rights violations against immigrants residing in the United Kingdom. Perhaps this is because, though it is a British paper, it is produced by immigrants …
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Nigel Conibear – Diptrans IoLET MCIL – firstname.lastname@example.org)