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Landmark report exposes Islamophobia in British Media

Landmark report exposes Islamophobia in British Media

A recent report from Muslim Council of Britain‘s (MCB) Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) has highlighted the ways in which anti-Muslim rhetoric is perpetuated by mainstream media organisations in the UK.  

From October 2018 to September 2019, the report analysed 34 British media outlets through their online websites and 38 television channels to find the ways in which organisations employ anti-Muslim and anti-Islam language.  This included both national and regional outlets.

Analysing 48,000 online articles written by British-based news providers, published between the above dates, researchers concluded that almost 60% associated Muslims or Islam with negative behaviour or qualities. They found that predominantly right-leaning and religious publications have the greater percentage of articles demonstrating a bias against Islam and misrepresentation of Muslims.

In the arena of broadcast television, it was found that 47% of all clips showed Muslims and/or Islam in a manner which presented negative aspects and/or behaviour. Additionally, right-wing pundits were on many occasions left unchallenged when making generalisations against Muslims, including promoting falsehoods. And these issues were more common on national broadcasters rather than regional stations.

The report, entitled, British Media’s Coverage of Muslims and Islam (2018-2020), also presented ten case studies which showed how Muslims are misrepresented, defamed and libelled in major publications with damages paid in 9 of the cases, alongside public apologies. 

Responding to the findings, the editor of the Sunday Times, Emma Tucker said: “I welcome this report – in the full knowledge that it contains criticisms of the press, my own paper included.” 

Alison Philips, editor in chief of The Mirror, said: “This report by the Centre for Media Monitoring shows how much we as journalists must question ourselves and the work we are producing in relation to reporting of Muslims and Islam.”  

There has been some recent progress however, which is mentioned by the report, with fewer anti-Muslim front pages in recent years and the MCB issuing fewer complaints than they have historically. There have also been positive editorial choices from right-leaning news outlets, such as The Sun’s featuring of Asma Shuweikh as a “hero of the week” and the prominence of Muslim women clapping for the NHS on the front page of the Daily Telegraph.

Whilst improvements must be acknowledged and encouraged, structural change is still desperately required in the British media establishment, regarding proper representation in newsrooms and journalism in general. Research from 2016 showed that 0.4% of journalists are Muslim, a tenth of what it should be proportionately. To alleviate the problems exposed in this report, there needs to be more effective policies, training and checks in the journalistic practice. Such actions can have crucial implications as to the security and dignity of the Muslim community.

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