Globe, Migrants

Influence of the media on perceptions of migrants

Immigration is a complex issue, and it is the media which principally constructs the image of immigrants, and consolidates stereotypes.

Mónica del Pilar Uribe Marín


The media is responsible for the promotion of significant attitudes and feelings like acceptance, tolerance and interest in other cultures.

But the media is also responsible for promoting discrimination, racism, lack of solidarity, fear, rejection, and xenophobic attitudes.

That is why it is so important for those in the media to be knowledgeable about and have an awareness of what it means to be an immigrant. The media has greatly contributed to the creation of an anti-immigrant attitude.

On the one hand, we have the national press, the official press, the traditional press. This press has shown little solidarity with immigrants and a great deal of ignorance and insensitivity on the subject.

This is understandable, given that in the United Kingdom this type of press is generally owned by private companies or economic groups.

The image that is therefore formed and established by the press is that of an immigrant who comes to this country to deprive the locals of what they have, whilst disturbing the peace, the economy and British customs.

In other words, this branch of media says immigrants are not welcome and should leave the country, no matter what is going on in their own lives.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some newspapers, like The Observer or The Guardian, demonstrate an understanding of migrants’ situations.

They discuss the problems of immigration, as well as the achievements of immigrants. They have also lodged significant allegations, for example, about what goes on in detention centres and the effects of this government’s anti-immigrant policies.

Unfortunately, what happens in these particular papers does not occur across the board, nor does it happen as often as it should in such a multicultural country as this.

I say this because in order for the local population to understand the reality which immigrants experience, we have to talk about this reality every day, because this is the only way to counter the numerous and prsistent lies and myths about immigration.

Of course, it is not all about information-sharing and awareness-raising for local people alone.

We must also do the same for ourselves, the immigrants, because whether we’re talking about immigrants who are journalists, or migrants who aren’t journalists, but work for the Media, everyone has a moral and ethical obligation to speak out for immigrants.

It is not an easy task. On the one hand, we have to fight to maintain a high standard of professionalism in the work of journalists.On the other hand, we must know about the migration process and understand that reality: a reality where we have to protect our identity as a Latin American community, and where we struggle with daily discrimination and xenophobic attitudes.

I am not saying all journalists should become immigrant’s rights activists, but I do think that we have to show solidarity and have a thorough understanding of what happens in our immigrant community.

But we are starting off with some specific problems. For one thing, the Latin American media is only run by journalists in very few cases.

Furthermore, the universities offer no option to specialise in journalism and immigration (well, we have “Media and Diversity” at Westminster University).

This specialisation comes with ‘practice’ and unfortunately, therefore there are not Latin American media specialized on immigration. The Prisma is an exception. Newspapers

In addition, much of this media survives on the revenue generated by advertising, or other economic support, which, in one way or another, then influences the information that gets published.

There are several Latin American media, but they are all primarily concerned with reprinting Latin American news, or just commenting on topics that interest only to a minor segment of the population.

And we all know that talking about this community’s problems, denouncing the horrors of detention centres, going against governmental policies, and generally talking about the people who work as cleaners, who fight and are deported, does not generate advertising or government aid.

It doesn’t generate a lot of friends and it doesn’t exactly open doors to the activities of the British elite … or, why not say it, of the Latin American elite.

This is not to say that the work which is being done is not valid, but it is insufficient,incomplete, and too often superficial.

It does not, therefore, help us to understand the reality of migration, nor does it create a real connection between British society and ours.

You have to go beyond promoting our artistic expressions and talents, our food and our languages and dialects.

It is not only about promoting our culture, it is also about defending it, knowing it and understanding it, based on real experiences and what it means to be an immigrant.

An immigrant who works as a cleaner can be proud of their culture, but won’t always have the opportunity to promote it, because she or he is more concerned about fitting into their new country, surviving, adapting, avoiding exploitation, and asserting their rights.

I think the Latin American media in the UK replicates the framework of the mass media in Latin American countries, and as such, the immigration issue is largely cast aside because, when all is said and done, it isn’t profitable.

Luckily, there is also the so-called alternative media, be it British or community-based. It is thanks to this kind of media that we are given information about the reality of the immigrant community. Except in very rare cases, I am talking about media created by community organizations or immigrant rights activists.

Sadly, the “local Latin American media” the voice of the immigrants cannot be heard unless it is telling a success story.

This is still a valid topic, but we also need to hear that immigrants contribute to the economy of this country through daily work like cleaning toilets and waiting at tables, we create small, traditional music groups, participate in political debates for immigrants, organize themselves to earn a wage to live on whilst avoiding exploitation, work to gain recognition of our Latin American identity, and work for those wrongly referred to as ‘illegal’.

This should not be that difficult.

Unfortunately, these same media outlets also act as islands. They are not united, but are motivated in pursuing their own interests, which are not always those of the immigrant community.

They do not unite between themselves, because we too discriminate and give a voice to a particular group of immigrants. We talk about one reality, not all realities. And I ascribe that to one issue: discrimination. (Part Two: Media and discrimination:  When we classify immigrants )

(Translated by Marie-Thérèse Slorach – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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