A landmark report by the Centre for Media Monitoring analysing over 48,000 online articles and 5,500 broadcast clips, has revealed almost 60% of online media articles and 47% of television clips associate Muslims and/or Islam with negative aspects or behaviour.
Last week, the Labour MP Naz Shah observed that “Islamophobia has now passed the ‘mainstream media test’”. The report published this week by the Muslim Council of Britain’s Centre for Media Monitoring shows that she’s right.
“British Media’s Coverage of Muslims & Islam (2018-2020)” is one of the most extensive pieces of statistical research done on how Muslims and Islam are reported in the British media and reveals through 100’s of examples the sheer scale of negative reporting associated with Muslims in the UK.
The editor of the Sunday Times has said British newspapers have made mistakes in their coverage of Muslims, ahead of the launch of a report that concludes the British media is highly critical of Islam.
Gary Jones, the editor of the Express, acknowledged in 2018 his newspaper had contributed to an “Islamophobic sentiment” in the media; Emma Tucker, the editor of the Sunday Times, welcomed this week’s report “in the full knowledge that it contains criticisms of the press, my own paper included”; and Alison Phillips, the editor-in-chief of the Mirror, acknowledged at the launch of this report that things have to change, laying out a series of steps her paper is taking.
Almost 60% of articles across all publications were identified as associating negative aspects and behaviour with Muslims or Islam.
Over 1 in 5 articles had a primary focus on Terrorism/Extremism. Right-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 themes under which articles are categorised show there is a greater bias against Muslims and Islam under the topics of Religion, Terrorism/Extremism.
Ten case studies are presented showing Muslims misrepresented, defamed and libelled in major publications, with damages paid in 9 of the cases, alongside public apologies, mcb.org.uk reported.
The report authors argue that high journalistic standards are crucial for our free media, one that treats Muslims fairly and does not seek to wilfully misrepresent Muslim communities.
In general, rightwing outlets were more critical about Islam than left-leaning publications. The Spectator had the highest proportion of articles about Muslims classed as “antagonistic”, with 37% of pieces thus categorised. The New Statesman had the highest proportion of articles considered to be “supportive” of Muslims, at 16%, The Guardian told.
Research from 2016 showed that 0.4% of journalists are Muslim (a tenth of what it should be proportionately). However, ultimately, MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring’s hope is for adherence to basic principles of journalism and responsible reporting.