Study reveals almost 60% of online media articles and 47% of TV clips associate Muslims or Islam with negative aspects or behaviour.
London: A new study has called for Muslims and Islam to receive fairer treatment in reporting and coverage at mainstream online and broadcast media outlets in the UK.
The report, titled ‘British Media’s Coverage of Muslims & Islam (2018-2020)’, was published by the Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM), a project of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). The MCB is a national Muslim umbrella organisation and includes mosques, scholars, charities and professional networks.
The report analysed over 48,000 online articles and 5,500 broadcast clips on 34 media outlets via their online websites and 38 TV channels between October 2018 to September 2019. The study revealed almost 60% of online media articles and 47% of TV clips associate Muslims and/or Islam with negative aspects or behaviour.
“While neither Muslims nor Islam should be immune from criticism or inquiry, where warranted, we do expect this to be done fairly and with due care, without resorting to well-worn tropes and generalisations,” said Faisal Hanif, the report’s author.
“This study is valuable to both the academic community, and more so to newsrooms and journalists, and will in some way go towards improving reporting and coverage of Muslims and their beliefs in the coming years,” he said.
The CfMM seeks to improve the quality of reporting of Islam and Muslims in the British media. It does this by hosting roundtables, publishing reports as well as working with stakeholders including the media, regulators, policymakers, and community organisations.
To launch the report, CfMM hosted a webinar, and included panellists from major UK-based outlets including the BBC, the Guardian and the Mirror. During the webinar, the report’s authors, members of the audience and panellists engaged in discussions.
Panellists agreed that British media should do a better job in reporting both positive and negative stories of Muslim communities. They also commented that one of the long-term challenges is changing the cultural mentality of traditional newsrooms.
Key findings show that over one in five online articles had a primary focus on terrorism and extremism. Similarly, the report noted that right-wing leaning and religious publications have the greater percentage of articles demonstrating a bias against Muslim belief or behaviour, or which generalise or misrepresent Muslim belief or behaviour.
The report noted that almost one in 10 articles misrepresent Muslims and/or Islam, with the majority of misrepresentation coming via news reporting (82%). Some 21% of all articles assessed were categorised as ‘Antagonistic’ while only 3% were categorised as ‘Supportive’.
“This report by the CfMM shows how much we as journalists must question ourselves and the work we are producing in relation to reporting of Muslims and Islam,” said Alison Philips, editor-in-chief of the Mirror.
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