By Zak Suffee
For decades the issue of immigration has been a toxic and divisive political issue in the United Kingdom and in 2015, in the wake of the European-wide migration crisis, the debate around asylum and refugees became highly charged, volatile and polemical.
In its reporting of the crisis the British tabloid press, already criticised in recent years for political bias over reporting of refugee and asylum issues, has found itself again under scrutiny during 2015 – this time from the international community.
In what was probably the lowest point for British media coverage, the country’s highest circulation tabloid newspaper, the Sun, in April was carpeted by the United Nations human rights chief for describing migrants as “cockroaches” in a piece of journalism which he said was reminiscent of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda.
In the midst of global media coverage of the tragic scenes of suffering by hundreds of migrants who drowned off the coast of Italy earlier in the month, Sun columnist Katie Hopkins wrote:
“I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care… these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof ’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.”
This incendiary piece appeared only hours before another migrant ship sank off the coast of Libya killing some 800 people. It prompted protests on a massive scale: more than 300,000 online protests and more than 300 complaints to the newly-formed Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).
But the intervention of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein shows that the frustration over media-inspired hatred, particularly coming from Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper extends far beyond the shores of the United Kingdom.
This article is taken from the Ethical Journalism Network's report 'Moving Stories - International Review of How Media Cover Migration'
Listen to Zakeera Suffee, the author of the UK chapter of the report, debate UK coverage of migration with media commentator and The Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover, who is also a columnist for The Daily Mail on The Media Show on BBC Radio 4.
About the author
Zak Suffee is a Researcher at Statewatch on Justice and Home Affairs. She is also currently undertaking a doctorate degree in Race and Migration at Kings College London. She has worked extensively in communications and media as well as migration and policy.
Read the other sections of the report here