Greg Philo, co-author of Bad News for Refugees (Pluto, 2013), was featured in the Guardian last week, writing about the government’s attempt at tackling illegal immigrants with its ‘go home or face arrest’ van. He poses us two questions about the matter: “Why are the vans crowd-pleasers in the first place? Why is there such hostility to illegal immigrants?”
One of several answers: the media.
Here, the media is at least partially to blame. Coverage of migration, asylum and refugees is often partial, inaccurate and hysterical – as in the tone of this headline from the Daily Express: “UK message to migrants: you are not wanted” (6 June 2011). Governments do not simply respond to such coverage, they also promote it. In 2008, it was reported that the Home Office had paid £400,000 to fund the series UK Border Force for Sky television.
He goes on to talk about some startling confessions from anonymous journalists:
The overwhelming thrust of media coverage, especially in the conservative press, has been negative and jumbles together migrants and asylum seekers who have the legal right to claim asylum. A journalist from the Daily Star described to us these news values: “There is nothing better than the Muslim asylum seeker, that’s sort of jackpot I suppose: all social ills can be traced to immigrants and asylum seekers flooding into this country.” Another from a broadsheet described how young, inexperienced reporters would be pressured “to put their conscience aside and go and monster an asylum seeker”. The resulting coverage becomes part of the everyday language of our society, and when we asked our focus group members to think up typical headlines, they readily provided us with examples such as “Migrants, how can we cope?”, “Britain getting flooded”, “Britain being invaded”, “Free homes”, “Crime rate increases: asylum”.
His conclusion is a plea for press regulation, and a demand for accuracy in the media:
In the end the combination of hostile media coverage and “tough” government policies is counterproductive. They produce fear, attacks upon individuals, depression, anxiety and suicide. Refugees are driven underground, and there is little room for serious discussion about the huge benefits that migration has actually brought to our country. In the redress of such issues, press regulation might help. But the problem is deeper in that there is a complex interaction between media accounts, government actions and public attitudes. We must go beyond simply criticising such coverage and argue for a humane and rational approach to the issues of migration, refuge and asylum. We must demand accuracy and balance in media reporting, but also humanity in public life and political policy and the right of the stigmatised and excluded to be heard.
You can read the article at its original source here.
Greg Philo’s latest book, co-authored with Emma Briant and Pauline Donald, is Bad News for Refugees, a political, economical and environmental look at how migrants have been stigmatised in political rhetoric and media coverage. Click on the cover image below to buy for just £15.
“This is an enormously important book that documents with meticulous scholarship the way in which immigrants have been stigmatised by the British media. It offers a compelling analysis of what is omitted from media accounts, which voices are left unheard, how simplifications and stereotypes are generated, and the consequences of this prejudiced reporting for immigrant communities who feel themselves to be under constant attack.”
Professor James Curran, Goldsmiths, University of London