In the UK journalism plays follow-my-leader in the rhetoric of negativity

Ethical Journalism Network Press Release

In the UK journalism plays follow-my-leader in the rhetoric of negativity

24th December 2015

A new report from the Ethical Journalism Network on how media cover migration was featured on ‘The Media Show’ on Radio 4 on Wednesday, with the one of the authors, Zakeera Suffee, debating UK press coverage of migration with the Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover.

You can listen to the debate here.

The Ethical Journalism Network report found that journalists often fail to tell the full story and routinely fall into propaganda traps laid by politicians and that 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.’

Read the rest of the UK report by clicking on this link.

Glover argued that “the idea that the tabloid press is stoking up hatred towards immigrants which is the kind of subtext of this report seems to me completely wrong.” When asked about describing people as “illegals” in headlines such as in Wednesday’s front page of the Daily Mail, Glover replied: “Those are headlines. Anybody who reads tabloids knows that their headlines tend to be more strident and more raucous then the headlines in broadsheet newspaper that is just the way they are.”

Suffee responded that there was “scope for a headline to be just as catchy but less sensationalist.” She added that the report’s recommendations include, “looking more at context, having a dedicated migration correspondent that can really look into this topic and have the feel for all the complexities.”

You can listen to the debate here.

The full list of recommendations can be found in the report – ‘Moving Stories: International Review of How Media Cover Migration’ – which was published last week to coincide with International Migrants Day on 18 December.

Download the full version for all 14 countries (plus the EU) by clicking on this link.

The 100-page report highlights

Missed Opportunities: How journalists and media in Europe failed to raise the alarm about an imminent influx of refugees fleeing war in Syria and Iraq, even though the story was there to be told a year before the crisis broke in 2015;

Hate-Speech: How outrageous anti-migrant or anti-Muslim statements by politicians like Donald Trump in the United States and some European leaders fuelled increasing public concern and hijacked media coverage;

Falling Standards: How media fail to provide detailed and reliable information about the refugee crisis because of a lack of editorial resources or the presence of well-informed journalists able to provide in-depth and sensitive reporting;

Sensationalism: How much journalism is driven by hyperbole, intolerance and distortion with media in confusion over what are the correct terms to use to describe migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers.

Download the full version for all 14 countries (plus the EU) by clicking on this link.


To counter these problems, the report recommends that news media take urgent action to appoint specialist reporters to the migration beat. It also calls for industry wide and in-house training on migration issues and problems of hate-speech; improved links with migrant and refugee groups; and more employment of journalists from ethnic minority communities to strengthen diversity in newsrooms.

The report highlights how media coverage, much of it negative and focused on numbers of migrants on the move, took a dramatic turn with the death of Aylan Kurdi and the publication of pictures of his body on a beach in Turkey. From that moment journalism woke up to the human tragedy within the migration story.

The lack of a wider perspective often leads media to miss the link between migration and human development. Journalists often ignore the evidence of serious studies that illustrate how migration, despite short-term challenges, is invariably beneficial for economic and cultural development in the longer-term.

The reports states: “There is a tendency, both among many politicians and in sections of the mainstream media, to lump migrants together and present them as a seemingly endless tide of people who will steal jobs, become a burden on the state and ultimately threaten the native way of life. Such reporting is not only wrong; it is also dishonest. Migrants often bring enormous benefits to their adopted countries.”

Download the full version for all 14 countries (plus the EU) by clicking on this link.

Migration: Global report on Journalism’s biggest test in 2015

Zakeera Suffee’s analysis of the UK media is one of the 15 chapters in the EJN’s international new report on media and the global migration and refugee crisis, issued to coincide with International Migrants Day on 18 December. The chapters include:

·The View from Brussels: Missed opportunities to call the European Union to account

·Bulgaria – A study in media Sensationalism

·Italy – A charter for tolerant journalism: Media take centre stage in the Mediterranean drama

·Turkey – Media under the government’s thumb and migrants in a legislative limbo

·United Kingdom – How journalism plays follow-my-leader in the rhetoric of negativity

·Australia – In a nation of migrants the media faces its own identity crisis

·Brazil – Where politics takes precedence over the people who make it

·China – An inside story: China’s invisible and ignored migrant workforce

·West Africa: The Gambia – Desperate young take the backway to an uncertain future

·India – How missing facts and context is toxic for media coverage

·Lebanon – Lebanon’s media put humanity in the mix as the refugee crisis takes hold

·Mexico – Shallow journalism in a land where political bias rules the newsroom

·Nepal – Information gaps fail to keep track of a country on the move

·South Africa – Compelling tales of afrophobia and media selective blindness

·United States – The Trump Card: How US news media dealt with a migrant hate manifesto


Aidan White, EJN Director

“Around the world media coverage is often politically led with journalists following an agenda dominated by loose language and talk of invasion and swarms. But at other moments the story is laced with humanity, empathy and a focus on the suffering of those involved. The refugee crisis is not going to go away and there has never been a greater need for useful and reliable intelligence on the complexities of migration. But if that is to happen, as this report shows, we must strengthen the craft of journalism.”

Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council

“It is not just a lack of humanity on the news agenda or a matter of luck or a matter of caring more about some people at the expense of others. We need a broader lens to see what really is going on.

It was arguably only with the tragic death of Aylan Kurdi and the publication of pictures of his body on a beach in Turkey that Western public opinion and global media finally woke up. Immediately, media lenses focused sharply on the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean and both politicians and ordinary people had to respond.”

Read Jan Egeland’s foreword to the report by clicking on this link.

The BBC Radio 4 broadcast is available

·On the BBC Radio 4 Media Show’s website

·As a BBC Radio 4 podcast

·On the Media Show’s soundcloud and audioBoom profiles

Join the onilne debate by using the hashtag #R4MediaShow

For further information contact or to arrange an interview with one of the authors contact:

Tom Law – EJN Communications Officer


UK Mobile:+44(0)7594270633


·Aidan White – EJN Director

About the Ethical Journalism Network

The Ethical Journalism Network is an unprecedented effort to promote an ethical renaissance based on transparency, self-regulation and good governance.


Social media: @EJNetworkFacebookLinkedInFlickrYoutube

The Ethical Journalism Network promotes ethics, good governance and independent regulation of media content. The EJN was formed in 2011 as a unifying professional campaign bringing together owners, editors and media staff to strengthen the craft of journalism. It works across all platforms and supports partnership at national and international level between media, journalism support groups and the public.

Previous EJN reports

·Untold Stories: How Corruption and Conflicts of Interest Stalk the Newsroom

·The Trust Factor: An EJN Review of Journalism and Self-Regulation

·Turning the Page of Hate in Media


Moving Stories: International Review of How Media Cover Migration

The Moving Stories report examines media coverage in a diverse range of countries. From Australia, a country built by migrants, where media struggle to apply well-meaning codes of journalistic practice within a toxic political climate to Nepal and the Gambia which are exporters of labour. In these countries censorship or a lack of resources – or a combination of both – are mainly to blame for poor coverage.

The reports on migration in China, India and Brazil tell another story. Though large numbers of people migrate from each of these countries, the main focus is on internal migration, a global phenomenon often ignored by mainstream media that involves millions and dwarfs international migration numbers. The biggest movement of people in history has taken place in China over the last 35 years.

In Africa while headlines focus on people leaving the continent and heading north, there is also migration between countries, with many people from the impoverished central regions heading for South Africa – a country where media also deal with problems of xenophobia and governmental pressure.

In Europe, where migration and refugee issues have shaken the tree of European unity, media struggle to provide balanced coverage when political leaders respond with a mix of bigotry and panic – some announcing they will only take in Christian migrants while others plan to establish walls and razor wire fences. The report looks at Bulgaria where media have allowed sensationalism to dominate migration reporting and Italy, where hate-speech is counterbalanced by a purpose-built ethical charter for media. In Britain the report notes how the story is often told without a sense of scale or balance with extensive reporting on the plight of people at a small refugee camp in Calais.

In Turkey, seen by many European politicians as a key country in stemming the onward rush of migrants, most media are under the thumb of a government that punishes dissident journalists, so public debate is limited. In Lebanon where millions of refugees from war-torn Syria are based the story is not helped by confused mixing of fact and opinion by many media.

In the United States the controversial Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has made migration an explosive topic. Media time has focused on heated and often racist exchanges which obscures some fine journalism that provides much-needed context. South of the border, media in Mexico suffer from undue political pressure and self-censorship.

Download the full version for all 14 countries (plus the EU) by clicking on this link.