By Yasha Maccanico
The first wave of global media coverage of the tragedy of migrants and refugees risking their lives to escape war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere was played out in Italy where in the year to August 2015, several shipwrecks led to more than 5,200 deaths.
During the year several Mediterranean island destinations well-known to European holidaymakers, particularly Lesbos in Greece and Lampedusa in Italy, took centre stage as media rushed to cover the tragedy of the Syrian refugee crisis.
Italy has been at the heart of the story. The reality of covering migration in Italy’s mainstream media has seen a range of approaches reflecting a complex political context amidst a cascade of events and circumstances which has produced markedly different editorial biases in newspapers. As the crisis developed it became clear that while the government puts its focus on rescue efforts, for the media it was the human side of the story that attracted greater attention.
At the same time there was no lack of alarmist discourse about immigration, with the number of arrivals described as an “invasion” and the use of the language of war, typified by the front page of the Milan newspaper Il Giornale on 24 August, 2015:
“Immigration chaos. Invasion by land. The landings continue but the alarm is now mainly on the Macedonian front: thousands of refugees push to enter Europe. It is an endless emergency.”
But media were quick to respond to the developing story. This showed clearly in September 2015 following Chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement that Germany was willing to receive an unspecified number of Syrian refugees and asylum seekers. There was a sudden shift in newspapers reporting acts of kindness and solidarity, with Austrians and Germans welcoming them as they arrived from Hungary.
This article is taken from the Ethical Journalism Network's report 'Moving Stories - International Review of How Media Cover Migration'
About the author
Yasha Maccanico has been a researcher, reporting on civil liberties developments in southwestern Europe for Statewatch since 1998. He is currently a PhD candidate in Policy Studies at the University of Bristol.
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