Monday 7 June 2010

Tabloid coverage of immigration: 'wilful misreporting, inflammatory language, lazy hostility'

Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon has written an article for the latest issue of British Journalism Review about media coverage of asylum and immigration. An abridged version appears in today's MediaGuardian.

Kenyon says:

the seemingly non-stop campaign against asylum- seekers, and the wilful misreporting of the issue among some tabloid newspapers, is getting worse.

'Wilful' is a strong allegation, but it's a fair one.

Important distinctions, such as that between asylum-seekers and economic migrants, are often fudged or overlooked; the language is inflammatory; there seems to be a lazy hostility towards them, implying a universal acceptance that what asylum -seekers represent, what they are, is wrong.

He also points out some of the specific problems with the coverage:

It is a perennial theme, repeated until it has become part of our national folklore.

The Sun's opinion column put it succinctly in April: 'Many asylum-seekers are no more than dole-scroungers.'

UK benefits are not what inspired the migrants I encountered. Although some were fleeing persecution, the vast majority were indeed economic migrants, but had no idea there was a state benefit system in the UK.

This latter view echoes Refugee Council research, published in January and ignored by the tabloid media (of course), that three-quarters of asylum seekers:

had no knowledge of welfare benefits and support before coming to the UK – most had no expectation they would be given financial support.

Having made four programmes over two years on the issue, he's probably met more asylum seekers and immigrants than, for example, the Mail's James Slack, who thinks immigration reporting consists of copying-and-pasting Migrationwatch press releases.

But the problem is, as Kenyon is all too aware:

Around 3 million people watched the four Panorama programmes I eventually made, more than the circulation of the Sun.

A newspaper journalist can exercise his line on the story every day. Our programmes were transmitted over two years.

The anti-immigration tabloids are read by millions of people who are fed a diet of this negative, hostile, misleading coverage on an almost daily basis. The effect is that these views dominate and poison the debate about immigration.

1 comment:

  1. 'But you just can't talk about immigration these days, because... they call you..."

    Sorry MacGuffin, couldn't resist.


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