A detailed study of print and broadcast reports reveals a serious problem in the way that British media reports about Islam and Muslims.
Examining over 10,000 articles and clips referring to Muslims and Islam in the period of Q4 2018, the study was conducted by the Muslim Council of Britain’s newly formed Centre for Media Monitoring, which presents its findings in parliament today.
The study’s methodology was verified by Professor Paul Baker, one of the leading corpus linguist experts in the country.
The study reveals:
59% of all articles associated Muslims with negative behaviour
37% of articles in right-leaning and religious publications were categorised with the most negative rating of “very biased”
Over a third of all articles misrepresented or generalised about Muslims
Terrorism was the most common theme
Case study examples highlighted include the Spectator’s publication of the statement: “there are Muslims who want to come and get me for my Jewish blood”, Christian Today’s headline “The European Church is sleeping while Islam is creeping in, says African bishop” and the usage of the image of terrorist Khalid Masood at the pilgrimage of Hajj.
The study also looked at TV and whilst issues of accuracy and bias were found to be considerably less than print media, notable conclusions include:
43% of all broadcast clips associated Muslims with negative behaviour
Regional coverage was significantly more supportive than national coverage
The platforming of the far-right on a number of debate programmes has allowed the propagation of false stereotypes about Islam and Muslims
Case study examples highlighted include the usage of Stephen Yaxley Lennon’s own propaganda image of being gagged on BBC Newsnight, the poor reporting of the Jamal Khashoggi murder by Sky News, and the pandering to stereotypes about Muslim women in BBC’s “The Bodyguard”.
Co-author Faisal Hanif of the Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM), said: “As the first in a series of quarterly reports, CfMM hopes that by highlighting examples of coverage on Muslims and Islam, this can serve as a valuable resource for journalists and editors alike.”
The Director for CfMM, Rizwana Hamid, highlighted the goals of the newly formed team: “There is no doubt about the seriousness of Islamophobia within sections of British media. Even amongst the public, 58% believe the media is to blame for Islamophobia. The status quo has to change. Our goal is for there to be more responsible reporting through constructive dialogue with decision makers. A robust evidence based methodology highlighting issues of deliberate misrepresentation and unconscious bias can only help increase transparency and accountability.”
Paul Baker added: “What I find most impressive about the Centre for Media Monitoring is that they’re doing what we couldn’t – they’re looking at each article individually, and so far they’ve read and analysed 10,000 articles about Muslims and Islam. Their analysis is both detailed and large-scale. And importantly, they know how to do this. They’re aware that bias can be both gross and subtle and the analysis scheme they’ve developed takes into account these different types. So for the first time, we can get a complete sense of the picture of media reporting on Islam in the UK. And in holding the media accountable, the Centre is ensuring that incorrect or unfair articles are corrected accordingly, each change adding to a growing record of negative bias that becomes increasingly hard to ignore.”