A report suggesting 59% of UK articles and broadcasts about Muslims show them and their faith in a negative light, has been published by the ‘Centre for Media Monitoring’, a new project launched by the Muslim Council of Britain, which represents 500 mosques in Britain. The report analysed almost 11,000 articles and broadcasts from October to December 2018, using the methodology ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’, looking at how power relations are reinforced through language. Quarterly reports will continue to be published by the Centre, highlighting ‘prejudices and unconscious bias’, while aiming to bring ‘greater accuracy and balance’ in media coverage of Islam.
Miqdaad Versi, founder and executive director of the Centre for Media Monitoring:
As you might expect, our worst categorisation of “very Biased” was highest amongst the right-wing (but also religious) papers. These contrast with better reporting in the Guardian, New Statesman & the Independent. Highlighting this, does not mean that true stories should not be published – but that care should be taken in the overall representation of Muslims in the media – as this is the way that many people perceive Muslims. When you find a third of the population believes there are sharia no go zones, a third of the population thinks Muslims are taking over England – these are really worrying phenomena and what we see is research suggests the media plays a role in driving this. And what we’re trying to do is show a perspective, look at articles and say ‘this is something that needs to be looked at’.
Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP:
There was recently London School of Economics research .. which noted that there is a big spike in crimes against Muslims when an issue is covered. So for example any of the incidents like the Paris attack of 2016, within a few weeks of saturated coverage, the crimes against Muslims spiked up tremendously. Of course a newsworthy item has to be covered – but it’s four and a half times more if it involves a Muslim. It’s not only a coverage issue – there’s an issue about inaccuracies – plain total lies. Any story has to have context to understand properly.
Gary Jones, Editor in Chief, Daily Express (speaking at the launch of the Centre for Media Monitoring)
It’s important to admit that mistakes have been made. Undoubtedly in the past and perhaps today as well, there is certainly Islamophobic sentiment in the media. Before I took on this job, I looked at the front pages of the Daily Express and I perhaps wasn’t aware of the depth of the issues they brought and I was really upset. That was the newspaper I represented and it certainly did not represent my views or my staff and readers. At my first news conference when I spoke to the staff I simply said this newspaper will never publish anti-Islamic or anti-immigrant story again because that is not the kind of society we want…To me it is very important that every word that you use has to be questioned and to look at the language and tone to deal with religion sensitively.