The European Parliament elections were supposed to be about migration. Anti-immigrant and far-right parties were preparing to topple the status quo thanks to popular discontent over immigration, reforming the EU in their own image. However, the actual results of the vote are proving to be much more nuanced.

It’s true that anti-migrant parties triumphed in some of the largest EU Member States, including France and Italy. However, the anti-immigrant AfD fizzled into fourth place in Germany, and across Europe there has been no clear breakthrough by the far-right.

So, did European media overstate the importance of migration? The think tank Friends of Europe has been looking at the issue of migration as part of its Migration Action programme. They recently held an event in Brussels looking at fake news, disinformation, and media narratives on migration in the context of the European Parliament elections. We spoke to some of the participants and put a couple of our readers’ questions to them to see how they would respond.

First, though, do journalists have a negative view of migration? In a series of interviews with over 200 journalists from across the EU, researchers from the University of Oxford, the Budapest Business School, and the European Journalism Centre looked at attitudes to migration in European media. Unsurprisingly, they found a great diversity of attitudes influencing how migration is reported.

In the UK, for example, one tabloid journalist explained that the term “migrant” had been loaded with negative connotations by the press partly because it helps to sell papers: “[T]here is more newsworthiness in a foreign criminal or a teenager who’s being looked after by the council than, say, a brilliant academic who’s come here to further their career … so from our perspective it’s more newsworthy if people are abusing the system or exploiting loopholes or abusing the hospitality being extended to them by British society … because that triggers a reaction in readers.”

Of course, there isn’t really such a thing as the “European media”. In truth, the media landscape across Europe (and, indeed, within individual Member States) is diverse and pluralistic, with a range of political views and opinions expressed. Many of the journalists interviewed in the research above were much more neutral (or even positive) about migration.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Emrah, who believes the media is promoting a negative view of Islam in Europe, leading Europeans to think that every refugee from a Muslim-majority country is a potential terrorist. Is he right?

To get a response, we put his comment to Tom Law, Deputy Director of the Ethical Journalism Network. What would he say?

I think that, unfortunately, that is true of many media organisations in Europe. I think that is largely to do with the political biases and affiliations of some media organisations, but also in relation to their business models. Media that rely on sensationalism to sell newspapers or to get clicks will often be driven towards this kind of reporting and away from more nuanced and balanced and fair reporting of migration.

I would also say that we have to be careful about generalising about the media. There are many very good organisations that are reporting on migration and winning awards for their coverage. So, I don’t think it’s fair to generalise in that sense, though I do share his concern, absolutely. I think it’s up to audiences to make sure they reward journalism that they see as being fair towards migration and all the different aspects of it, and not engage in hate, sensationalism, or Islamophobia.

So, I do agree with Emrah, but I think we also have to look at the good coverage of migration and not see ‘the media’ as one entity. There are many different variations and different standards between different organisations in different countries.

We also had a comment sent in from Gustav, who thinks today’s media are obsessed with the number of views they get and so they focus on the most extreme and shocking stories. Is he right? Do (some) European media sensationalise the migration issue in order to get clicks?

We put this comment to Inma Vazquez, Representative to the EU and NATO of Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF), an organisation that works on the ground with migrants and refugees. What was her perspective?

MSF does a lot of public communication. It’s always been one of the pillars of our organisation and, historically, the public communication we’ve done has been about denouncing the horrors we witness.

However, there has been a change in the way migration is being reported. For example, something that has shocked our communication people is that when we put out stories about the situation inside Libya (which are horror stories, as you know) these are not reported on. We put it on our website, we send out press releases, but they are not reported. To us, it feels like this kind of story is no longer considered ‘sensationalist’ today in a way that journalists are attracted to. It’s not news anymore to talk about the horrors inside Libya.

However, it is news today to talk about the ‘collusion’ of NGOs with migrants and traffickers. That is news, still, and still comes with condemnation from politicians. So, is it really because the media only want to highlight sensationalism? Because, the thing is that there are many sensationalist stories out there in terms of news about migration. There is shocking news about violence towards migrants. It is available. Yet it is not picked by the big media today.

Are journalists responsible for the negative view of migration? Do the media sensationalise the issue of migration in order to sell papers? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (cc) Flickr – Gideon

29 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    catherine benning

    Are journalists responsible for the negative view of migration?

    This questions sounds as if politicians are looking for more scapegoats for their lack of ability to understand the social and cultural aspects of humanity? Rather than accept their gross ignorance in the concept and outcome of what they deliberately engineered. This DE thread certainly sounds like it. Journalists have been treacherously used and abused right across the Western world to keep quiet the total abandonment of responsibility toward the indigenous citizen and culture under their collective control To the point where fraud has been committed. The question here is, how have the people who set these policies up been able to have the population carry out acts that have left their countries in the chaos they presently suffer? Over population has created a total inability to supply the necessary needs of modern civilisation on every level and service which are facing complete invited invasion as we go forward. Politicians have forced totally unacceptable migration expectation and lifestyle to invade and change European homelands into what is now referred to as a ‘changing world.’ As if what has been manipulated by experiment was a natural process of evolutionary events, rather than a cultural reconstruction or deliberate orientation, forced on the societies by their newly chosen ethos. They did this through mass manipulation on every level. And done so knowing the devastation it would encourage.

    The negative view of migration is a result of political idiocy and one they refuse to face up to or rectify. There is no such thing as a melting pot of cultures and before they took these moves to play with the lives of their voters, they had a complete model of the chaos they were creating to reflect on. Which means, every move made was intended and the outcome foreseen. Where journalist failed was in their keeping it quiet and pretending it was not happening. They didn’t report the facts. They knew, had they done so, the truth would have put them in hell. The kind Assange is facing today for daring to expose the world to the truth global politicians did not want known or proven.

  2. avatar

    Of course not. Journalists are very positive about migrations and are very good propagandists for our governments. If migration is badly consider it is because Muslims migrants Don t integrate and make problems…. Attack rape deals…..

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Olivier, we would be interested to see the stats on the actual number of rapes committed by migrants. Also, what percentage of all migrants are rapists? Thanks for sharing.

  3. avatar

    maybe illegal immigration is bad period? Plus a sovereign state have the right to choose who can live on it’s own territory.

  4. avatar

    Speaking about MSM 😀😀😀😀?!?!

  5. avatar

    We are all immigrants but the most important thing is to respect each other and live in together this Earth is enough for Us no matter where you are from we are brothers for Humanity 👌 thanks

    • avatar


    • avatar

      yes. Se are more brothers than others… Or some are less brothers… Read the Coran… In which non Muslims are not brothers….

  6. avatar

    UK media is a disgrace chasing headlines truth doesnt come into it

  7. avatar

    Newspapers standards are so low in the UK they are thinly guised tabloids in general. I expect when they run out of immigrant stories, they’ll move on to alleged Martian invasions

  8. avatar

    Same way about Venezuela, when CAPITALIST Haiti, Honduras, Africa, etc., are truly starving, and without embargoes.

  9. avatar

    No, illegal immigrants are the cause of the bad view upon immigration

  10. avatar


  11. avatar

    We don’t need the media to know that l immigration, migrants, muz…… are harmful to our country…. we see it every day by passing everywhere….. welcome to soukcity…. most of the Trouble are produced by these people…..

  12. avatar

    JOURNALISTS are a classe long gone…

  13. avatar

    On the contrary they hide the importance of the problem, the worst atrocities are revealed by the social raiseaux not by the press subventionnees

  14. avatar

    Why are living on this planet , why are all Born on it , why are the children of the world , why are all brother s and sister , there is no planet B , you can love humanity , in paece , or making war and nobody sulvave it , then there is no live on this Solar s systeem , its up to us 😈 LOVE WAR ?

  15. avatar

    Name me one positive thing about the migration thats now happening in europe…..just 1thing…..

  16. avatar

    U mean the copy pasters that work for news agencies? Have not seen a real journalist in years

  17. avatar

    The opposite, most of the media are hiding many things to cover immigrants

  18. avatar
    catherine benning

    Are journalists responsible for the negative view of migration?

    The information on the growing unacceptable criminality of many migrant communities has not, in the main, been revealed by Western journalists for the European population to discuss or decide the best way forward. And that is because the political powers have an agenda they do not wish the taxpayers to become aware of.

    This attitude of politicians cannot easily be presently hidden, as the horror of these crimes is now so prevalent in their communities the victims, in their thousands, no longer keep their mouths shut and are speaking out. And try as these politicians may to cover the truth, the knowledge continues to seep into the population. Which is why governments are trying to change our laws on the human right of freedom of speech along with the rights of association. They want to criminalise ‘dislike’ of what one man perceives as unacceptable behaviour and a rejection of what is abhorrent to the host culture.

    Here is an example of the massive movement now in progress to try and stultify the indigenous population from knowing what is taking place. This is not simply in the UK parliament. As you will note, all of the speakers admit their presentation stems from other organisations direction. The main one being the UN. A globalist agenda.

    You will also note this entire committee at no time referred to those Christians suffering Christianaphobia or how that is affecting our society and social cohesion. They refer to other areas of the world, but not to the now rampant murder of Christians in those other countries. It is as if this unfortunate fact doesn’t exist. That non Islamic religions do not exist at all. Or, why that is. And now we face being convinced that we must believe a dislike or rejection of Islamists and their religion is ‘racist.’ Race is ‘not’ religion. The multi race of Islam is of world population, not a specific people. Judaism and Islam are a religion founded in the Middle East and of the Arabic race. Abrahamic of origin. Two brothers of Abraham took a different view on religious philosophy. One Islam the other Judaism. The philosophy spread across the world in the same way Christianity and other religions did and do. It enveloped numerous races. And omission of this in this committee was/is intentional as they did not want to address the rise of religious cultural criminality of any kind. Especially that part of the religions hatred toward women, children and its spread of cruelty toward animals used for food. They do not want to address the reality of various faiths and the practice on the Western world. Instead the criminality is being placed on the rejection of its ethos by host cultures. In other words, to incriminate civilised Western society and its people, rather than deal with an atrocious spread of unacceptable ideals.

    Journalists are the puppets of politicians. Take note of what is happening to Assange. He is now too ill to attend a British court to face ‘Justice’ as he is kept in solitary confinement in a notoriously brutal prison, Belmarsh. It is the British equivalent of Guantanamo.

  19. avatar

    Debating Europe is a pro-migration platform itself. As a pro-EU centrist, even I’m getting tired of this whole ‘people are stupid and easy to manipulate so we got to educate them better otherwise they won’t like migration’ line of thinking. I haven’t yet brought myself to vote for a so-called ‘far-right’ outfit, but the exasperating levels of political correctness and whitewash are pushing the limits of my patience. Maybe it is time the electorate puts some evolutionary pressure on our ‘leaders’. Restrict immigration sharply or face defeat at the polls.

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