Media Portrayal of Displaced Persons

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

The mass media is central for setting the political agenda, for framing debates and for turning the publics focus on specific happenings or tasks. Mass media provide the information we use to make sense of the world and our place within it. During 2014 and 2015, more than 200,000 refugees and migrants fled for safety across the Mediterranean Sea. Throughout this period, UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations, tried to convince European countries to do more to help. During this time, they experienced that the media was far from united in its response. Some joined the call for more assistance, others were unsympathetic, arguing against increasing rescue operations. To understand why this happened, UNHCR commissioned a report by the Cardiff School of Journalism to explore what was driving media coverage in five different European countries: Spain, Italy, Germany, the UK and Sweden. Thy found that there are several reasons why EU leaders did not take the responsibility that UNHCR was seeking, one key reason was a high level of public anxiety about immigration and asylum seekers. It became clear from their work that the role of the mass media in influencing public and political attitudes can not be ignored and they found clear national difference in how the media contextualised and described refugees.

Stereotyping[edit | edit source]

It is not uncommon, and not so strange that we end up describing stereotypes. We can all think of stereotypic description of people from the country where we live. This can be funny, and we can laugh from it, but in very many cases it can be a burden and it can do damage. If media pushes a stereotypic view of populations, groups or individuals it can have a significant impact. The media contextualises refugees and asylum seekers into stereotypes. It has been shown that established narratives of security threat and economisation are prominent and that humanitarian frames and background information on refugee situations are provided to a lesser extent.

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