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Ignorance-inducing media demonisation of refugees exposed

IAN SINCLAIR looks at the asylum-seeker focused follow-up to Bad News from Israel

Bad News For Refugees
by Greg Philo, Emma Briant and Pauline Donald
(Pluto Press, £16)

“Persistent and overwhelmingly hostile coverage of refugees and asylum seekers exists in much of the national media,” say the authors of this book. 

That conclusion, based on extensive research, identifies tabloids such as The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Express as the worst offenders as they peddle the misleading popular myths that dominate media coverage — Britain is a soft touch, abuse of the system by asylum-seekers is widespread, asylum-seekers are a burden on the country — while at the same time certain narratives and arguments are largely absent from the often hysterical reporting. 

The voices of refugees themselves rarely appear, likewise the role of Western foreign policy in creating refugees across the world. is largely ignored. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia were the leading sources of refugees last year and all three have been on the receiving end of significant Western military aggression in recent years.

Worryingly, the authors conclude that ignorance-inducing media accounts have a crucial impact: “in legitimising the hostility toward and bullying of the new arrivals.” And it’s not just refugees who are under sometimes physical attack. Focus group research suggests that the media’s monstering of refugees can have an additional negative and destabilising impact on long-established migrant communities in Britain.

In a section exploring how the issue impacts at newsroom level, one journalist comments that “it’s not a meritocracy, it’s authoritarian — you do what you’re told.” 

Yet while there are several references to the commercial interests of newspapers, more discussion about what is driving the media’s vendetta against refugees would have been enlightening. “The public gets what the public wants” seems too simplistic and self-serving and how does the BBC’s often poor coverage fit with the argument that profits are central to the media’s unpleasant work?

These are minor criticisms of an important book that is an essential corrective to the lies much of the media continue to spread about refugees. With master of the dark arts Lynton Crosby masterminding the Conservatives in the 2015 general election and the Labour Party trying to out-Tory the Tories on the issue, you can be sure refugees will continue to get it in the neck for some time to come.


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