Bigotry, panic reflected in media coverage of migrants and refugees

Bigotry, panic reflected in media coverage of migrants & refugees

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – From Bulgaria to Brazil, journalists reporting on the global migration & refugee crisis often fail to tell the full story, & regularly perpetuate negative stereotyping used by politicians looking to score points, research shows.

A study of media coverage in 14 countries said a lack of resources & journalists able to provide indepth & sensitive reporting contributed to a distorted picture of the refugee crisis – one of the biggest global stories of the year.

The report by the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), issued to coincide with International Migrants Day on Friday, moreover highlighted confusion in the media over the correct use of terms migrants, refugees & asylum seekers.

p> "Around the world media coverage is often politically led with journalists following an agenda dominated by loose language & talk of invasion & swarms," said Aidan White, director of EJN, which groups more than 40 media organizations.

"But at other moments the story is laced with humanity, empathy & a focus on the suffering of those involved," he said in a statement.

The number of people forcibly displaced worldwide is likely to have "far surpassed" a record 60 million this year, mainly driven by the war in Syria & other long-term conflicts, the United Nations said on Friday.

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A Frontex zodiac (front L) approaches a dinghy with Syrian refugees onboard (front R) that was tugge …

The estimated figure includes 20.2 million refugees fleeing wars & persecution, the most since 1992, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

While much of the international coverage has focused on European countries struggling to deal with the arrival by land & sea of almost 1 million people so far this year, mainstream media has ignored stories of mass migration elsewhere, EJN said.

For example, internal migration in China, Brazil & India involves millions & dwarfs international migration numbers, with the biggest movement of people in history taking place in China over the last 35 years, it said.

In Africa, the headlines have focused on people leaving the continent for Europe. Their plight, alongside thousands fleeing violence in the Middle East, stirred international alarm this year, with hundreds dying as they crossed the Mediterranean in boats & dinghies.

But the majority of Africans who emigrate remain within Africa.

The study found that in Nepal & Gambia reporting on the migration of large numbers of young people was limited & stories approximately the hardships they suffer were rare, partly because journalists were afraid of offending the government.

EJN said journalists often fail to reflect evidence showing that migration is "invariably beneficial" for economic & cultural development in the long run.

"How would California's agricultural industry or the Texan oil fields survive without the presence of hundreds of thousands of Mexicans & Central American workers, often laboring on minimal wages?," the report said.

"How could the health service in the UK continue without the thousands of migrant nurses & doctors from the developing world?"

It moreover said "outrageous" anti-migrant or anti-Muslim statements by political figures such as U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump – who has called for the mass deportation of illegal immigrants & a ban on Muslims entering the United States – had "hijacked" media coverage.

"(In Europe) media struggle to provide balanced coverage when political leaders respond with a mix of bigotry & panic – some announcing they will only take in Christian migrants while others plans to establish walls & razor wire fences," the report added.

(Writing by Katie Nguyen; Editing Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption & climate change. Visit

Immigration IssuesThomson Reuters Foundation

Source: “Reuters”

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