This is a Chapter of the Study “How does the media on both sides of the Mediterranean report on migration?” carried out and prepared by the Ethical Journalism Network and commissioned in the framework of EUROMED Migration IV – a project, financed by the European Union and implemented by ICMPD. © European Union, 2017.


Desperation, Tragedy and Criminal Coverage that Distort the Media Image of Migration

Jose Miguel Calatayud

Up to the early 1970s Spain was a country where the migration story concerned political and economic exiles and emigrants who left Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. The trend started to reverse from the mid-1980s, when now democratic Spain joined the European Union (EU), and mostly from the 1990s, when, already richer, it started to receive more and more economic migrants from Latin America, northern Africa and some parts of Europe.

However, this evolving and complex phenomenon has been translated in Spain into a much more simplistic media discourse dominated by two stories. The first and most graphic is that of desperate Sub Saharan Africans either trying to climb the walls separating the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco, or being rescued from drifting, overcrowded dinghies in the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean. This despite the fact that almost all migrants arrive in Spain by regular and legal means, and that sub Saharan Africans make up only 3.95 % of all foreigners in Spain.

And the second is about some of these migrants already living in Spain being associated with criminal activities. These mostly relate to Moroccan men linked to drug trafficking or other misdemeanours, Romanian gangs participating in organised crime, or Latin American youth gangs committing acts of violence.

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How do media on both side of the mediterranean report on migration?

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