The current migration wave has almost completely reshaped the traditional way of reporting on the topic in Israel. The long going stories of Palestinian sham marriages and illegal Eastern Asian workers had to give way to the heated coverage on the fate of the African migrants flowing through the border with Egypt, a new study on media attitudes towards migration in the Mediterranean claims.
The analysis How Does the Media on Both Sides of the Mediterranean Report on Migration was carried in 17 EU and EU Neighborhood countries. It was commissioned by the EUROMED Migration IV and funded by the Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the EU. Journalists from the Ethical Journalism Network conducted the research in 2015-2016.
Israel has dealt intensively with migrations issues since the turn of the century and the media approach to the subject is influenced by political divides and internal prejudices, the report says.
Unlike other Southern neighborhood countries, recent migrants in Israel are few in numbers and come predominantly from Africa. The roughly 37 000 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants are in the focus of interest for society and the media.
The influx of African refugees or immigrants has caused a very heated debate in Israeli society and has brought social and racial tensions to the surface, which has been reflected in the media coverage, the report argues.
The media approach is driven by the media’s political affiliation and the coverage of migration “tends to split along political lines”.
The liberal and left-wing media (Ha’aretz newspaper, TV channel 10, public TV and radio) “tend to emphasize the plight of the refugees and the dangers they might face if they are deported back to their countries”, the report notes.
Liberal media tries to voice both sides of the story, giving migrants and hosting communities an opportunity to speak out, while pointing to the moral commitment to help those in need. These media are more likely to call upon the government to grant migrants civil rights and citizenship, as well as more opportunities to present their case to the Israeli public.
The mainstream media (Maariv and Israel Hayom newspapers, TV channels TV20 and religious, Radio channels), on the other hand, are more concerned with security, point out the religion of the newcomers (mainly Muslim) and focus on the potential risks they might pose to Israeli society. No hate speech, racist, inflammatory or derogatory terms are used. This media tries directly to press the government to stop migrants arriving and deport many of those already in Israel, the study adds.
Similarly, this divide could be followed in the discussions of the Syrian war refugees. Liberal media encourage the government to accept limited number of Syrians from Aleppo, while “the mainstreamers” argue Israel’s interest is to stay out of the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian refuge crisis is being reported mainly through the developments in Europe with all major media sending correspondents to the main crisis locations and covering extensively the human stories.
As the human crisis began to lose momentum the narrative began to change, emphasising the potential danger that these refugees, the vast majority of whom are Muslims, can pose to European countries and to the European culture, the study writes.
Social media cover of migration has completely different approach to migration, the report says.
Writers who are not professional journalists lose all inhibitions and moral sense, when they write about this issue, writes the report, adding “violent discussions, blunt racist expressions and intolerance” are common.
The Press Council unsuccessfully tried to curb violent discussions, including taking some cases to the ethical tribunals. The authorities are now considering regulating social media by law but this is opposed by the Council, which worries this might limit free speech, the report says.
How Does the Media on Both Sides of the Mediterranean Report on Migration (Summary)
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