Communication for Development One-year master
An ideological conflict: the
information about refugees in the
European mass media versus the
UNHCR communication campaign
This work has been revised again according to the new orientations made by the evaluators. In this sense, a) I modify the research question for a better understanding b) Explain where the research is in the C4D discipline, c) consider Critical Theory of Discourse as a method d) Reorganize the work structure to improve clarity and e) The English language has been reviewed again by a native interpreter.
The purpose of this research is to compare how the European mass media have presented the arrival of refugees to Europe, with an awareness campaign on this issue (Dilemmas). From this comparison several conclusions are obtained regarding the validity of the information provided by the mass media. In addition, I identify the key concepts to understand the logic followed by both the mass media and the communication for development campaign. In fact, the contradictions detected between the information of the mass media and the Dilemmas campaign seem to show an underlying ideological conflict, expressed in contradictory discourses.
This research starts with the qualitative systematic review of several research reports that analyse the information that the European mass media offered about the arrival of refugees. The analysis of this information is carried out applying the concepts of Agenda setting and Frames. The two approaches have established the criteria used to systematize the comparison of the different research reports. After the analysis of the mass media, I analyze the UNHCR campaign on refugees, called "Dilemma". This communication campaign sought to raise awareness in Western societies about the refugee reality. The main objective is to know what concepts, elements and design are specific to this communication campaign, in contrast with the information about refugees that were reported by the media in the European Union. The structure of this research is as follows. After the introduction, the theories, models and methodologies used in this research are briefly presented: The Agenda Setting, Framing, as well as the methodology of Critical Discourse Analysis and Systematic review. The Systematic review will be used to integrate the research reports analyzing the information of the refugee crisis in the mass media. Second, the empirical part of the research is developed in four phases. In a first phase, the Systematic review methodology is used to integrate the research reports made in several European countries, analyzing the information on the refugee in the mass media. The Agenda Setting and Framing approaches are used in the Systematic review to systematize the findings of the research reports on the mass media. The conclusions of this first phase are used in a second phase to analyze the UNHCR campaign applying the Critical Discourse Analysis. To really understand the transcendence of the mass media information it is very important to compare its approach and its contents with those used by UNHCR. The contrast between the two allows greater ability to identify their specific characteristics. Finally, in the third and four phases some conclusions and reflections on the research outcomes are presented.
Table of Contents
2. Literature review and existing research
3. Theory and methodology
3.1. Theories: Agenda setting & framing
3.2. Methodology and design
3.2.1 Systematic Reviews
3.2.2 Critical Discourse Analysis
5. The research design
6.1. Analyse and combine information
6.2 The communication campaign Dilemmas
7. Mass media information and the Dilemma campaign: a CDA
8. Conclusions and debate
The year 2015 will be remembered as the moment in which Europe experienced directly a tragedy of global dimensions. A crisis that other regions of the world have gone through for years with greater intensity. Known as the «refugees crisis», since the II World War the refugees had not have such presence in the European mass media. The refugees are not migrants. They fall into another category, both legal and formal. Refugees are migrations forced by violence or persecution. While the management of economic migrants is a decision of each country, the protection of refugees is legally contemplated in international treaties.
Data from the official statistics express the magnitude of the refugees crisis in Europe: between 2015 and 2016 more than 2.5 million persons requested political asylum in the European Union. The authorities of the European Union Member States issued 593,000 asylum decisions of first instance in 2015, and half of them were admitted. Those data are an underestimation of the real number, because not all the refugees apply for the official status. After the reinforcement of frontiers, the number of refugees went lower on 2017.
This research explores how the mass media informed on refugees according with several research reports, and how did it the refugees solidarity campaign, Dilemmas. Dilemmas is a UNHCR campaign that aims to raise awareness in Western developed societies about the humanitarian crises caused by international violence and wars. This campaign presents an essential idea: the reality of forced migration needs a solidary response.
To analyse the UNHCR campaign, it is necessary to know in which communicational context it is inserted. The mass media inform about the arrival of refugees. However, such information is rarely completely objective. Generally, it contains elements of expression or form that affect the contents. These elements that distort the information have been studied by several theories and methodologies, especially Agenda Setting, Framing or CDA. This is very important. Information from the mass media helps to build public opinion. According to the CDA approach, the mass media reproduce the discourse of power. The discourse of the mass media, ideologically,
offers a vision of the world that is often distorted and related to the interests of several socio political and economic actors.
The UNHCR campaign that we are considering must reach its solidarity objectives in this communicative context, which is often unfavourable. A context where the mass media build a specific world view, at the service of power. The UNHCR campaign is aimed at the same audiences.
In order to study this case, I pose the following questions to frame this investigation:
Considering the research reports written about how the mass media deal with the refugee crisis, which are the main conclusions that we can extract from those research reports? And, if we consider a communication campaign for development oriented to improve the information about refugee in western countries, ¿which are the main differences of this development communication campaign with the information from mass media (according with the research reports considered)?
Departing from those main questions, and in order to give them an answer, this research pose some specific questions.
- What discourse on the refugee have been used by the mass media in Europe, according with several research reports?
- Which are the contents of the information of the UNHCR Dilemmas campaign?
- How do the contents of the Dilemmas campaign relate to the content transmitted by the mass media (mass media contents according with several research reports)?
- Which, if any, are the differential features in the development communication campaign information and mass media information (mass media contents according with several research reports)?
- Is there a discursive conflict between the two information which may express an underlying ideological conflict?
To answer these questions, a research design is applied in four phases. In the first phase, I do a Systematic Review of the research reports which studied the way in which the European mass media have reported on the refugee crisis.
Based on this systematic review, I will consider the agreement and disagreement between the different researches on how the mass media reported on the refugee crisis. The reference criterion for systematizing the different reports are the theoretical proposals of the Agenda Setting and Framing applying the critical approach of the CDA. After the Systematic Review, we will have a diagnosis about the treatment given by the mass media to the presence of refugees in Europe, according with several research reports.
In a second phase, the contents of the development communication campaign "Dilemmas" are analysed taking as a reference the conclusions of the previous phase. This comparison of discourses allows us a better understanding of the contents of the UNHCR campaign. The third and fourth phases explore the ideological conflicts expressed through those conflicting speeches. In summary, the deep dilemma between the egocentric capitalism and international humanitarianism.
2. Literature review and existing research
Communication for development focus on a complex concept: development. It is undeniable that the idea of development is historically in continuous change, Pieterse, J (2010). The same thing also happens with the academic definition of "development", to which different connotations are introduced depending on who uses the word. For all this, this research tries to combine C4D theories with the study of Mass Media. In relation to development, the first position to be highlighted is the one made by Pieterse, J., who defines the term development as "organized intervention in collective affairs according to a standard of improvement" (Pieterse 2010: 3). A definition that, although it is within a classic theoretical framework, for some authors does not come close to reality in practice. For Clammer, the discourse on development is in a period of unprecedented crisis because the "Decades of technocratic policies and practices, management and development economists have failed significantly to alleviate the problems" (Clammer, J 2010: 3). He also accuses the social sciences of this
deterioration, when he affirms that "general social science has largely ignored development, the development specialist has largely ignored new thinking in the other social sciences, except economics and, to some extent, sociology" (Clammer, J 2010: 10). In other words, for Clammer “the concept of development has rightly become suspect, since its destructive, environmentally hostile and socially marginalizing effects have become evident, the problems for which the concept was not only present, but in general worsening” (Clammer, J 2010: 5) In these terms, the use of Mass Media and for C4D has been stereotyped and used in very commercial ways in some cases. For example, the pain or suffering, in the case we are considering, the refugee crisis, has been also used for commercial purposes.
Due to space restrictions it is not appropriate to extend the general theoretical frameworks that host this research. Anyway, I consider relevant to affirm how this line of research does not have direct antecedents, beyond the research made to know the contents and treatment of the information about refugee in the mass media. The
novelty of this research has not to be dismissed and obviously conditioned the references to previous literature.
In this research I realize a Systematic Review of the existing research reports on how the mass media have dealt with the refugee crisis in Europe. After reviewing the literature, we may say that this is the first attempt to produce a Systematic Review, integrating the finding from the existing research reports. The research on the recent refugee crisis and its display (Agenda and Frames) in the European mass media is recent. This statement responds with a reality: the studies on mass media and refugees in Europe do not have a long history. Most of the reviews of previous research on mass media and refugees in Europe focus on the generic concept of migration. Another example is Chouliaraki, L., et al. (2017) presenting the refugee crisis as "migrant crisis" with a bibliographic review referring mainly to migration studies. There are several investigations that, considering the evolution of the crisis, highlight the changes in the agendas and frames in different countries. Especially, because of the photographs and their ability to impress people.
In any case, the symbolic practices of language and migration has been explored before (van Dijk, 1991; Wright, 2004; Triantafyllidou, 2013; King & Wood, 2013). Nowadays, the research working on the recent refugee crisis is growing quickly (Malafouri, 2016; Giannakopoulos and Anagnostopoulos, 2016; Musarò, 2016; Berry et al. 2015; Zaborowski & Georgiou, 2016; Chouliaraki, 2017). In these studies, the migrant/refugee is an ambivalent figure, in the way they are presented in the mass media. One side they are victims of a conflict and needs help. On the other side, they appear as a threat. (Moore, K., & Gross, B. Terry Threadgold, 2012). These dual representations of refugees as victims or as a threat is a constant in the mass media information. To the date, this is the first systematic review (of research reports) on the subject at academic level.
The same can be said about the comparative nature of this research. The comparison between the mass media information about refugee and the contents of a communication for development campaign on the same subject. This comparison opens an opportunity to reveal the deep ethical conflict that exist on European the
solidary attitudes toward underdeveloped countries. This research is in the research axis Com4Prom. It is related to the importance of giving true and realistic information about the refugee humanitarian crisis. To produce Positive Communication, we need more research about the pitfalls in mass media information. The problems that mass media have when informing about development aid must be highlighted by the comparison with right and ethical information. In this sense, this research is a contribution in the Com4Prom area, setting an exploratory analysis to promote best practices. One relevant point is if the mass media information and C4D share or not the same discourse, and if the main topics are covered by both or not.
3. Theory and methodology
We are going to consider two main theoretical approaches to this research subject, which comes from Media Theories. These theories are Agenda Setting and Framing. These two theories and approaches are very well-known in communication analysis. Following the reviewers orientations, I applied Systematic Review and Critical Discourse Analysis as a methodological approach. Systematic review is a methodology for the systematic analysis and comparison of previous investigations. Critical Discourse Analysis (departing from critical linguistic and semiotics) focus on how discourses (texts, talks or even images) are used to reproduce and keep an ideological structure of domination of society. Given its widespread use in the C4D discipline (theories and methods) a summary presentation will be made, highlighting the most substantive elements in relation to this research.
3.1. Theories: Agenda setting & framing
In short, the Agenda setting theory is based on the choice of news by the media to determine what should be inside or stay out of the communicational agenda. The main idea is that the media does not say what their audiences should think, but what issues they should think about. In this way, the media decide on what topics they will inform, which influences the subjects that are relevant to their audience. Walter Lippmann (1922) affirmed that the media was the main source of image creation and that, with it, the media showed us the world. Therefore, the world that we know is the one that
is shown to us through the media agenda. Especially when there is no direct experience of the events or the context in which they occur. According to the researchers, the configuration of the agenda has two levels. The first level of the agenda setting focuses on the relative prominence (operationally defined as perceived importance) of issues or themes, while the second level examines the relative relevance of the attributes of the problems. That is, what traits characterize them, and with which valence. The media agenda does not tell you what to think, but what to think about. For example, which countries exist or do not exist (according to whether they report on them or not) and what problems define what happens in them. This is an incredible power to shape public opinion.
The relevance of this approach has led to a great scientific literature production. Both from the point of view of theoretical reflection and empirical research. Some examples are Benton, M. and Frazier, P. (1976), Brosius, H and Kepplinger H.(1990), Burd, G. (1991), Carragee, K., Rosenblatt, M. and Michaud G. (1987), Cobb R. and Elder C. (1983), Dearing, J. and Rogers, E. (1992), Eaton, H. (1989), Erbring, L, Goldenberg, E. and Miller, A. (1980), Gilbert, S., Eyal, C., Mccombs, M. and Nicholas, D. (1980), Hill, D. (1985), Kingdon, J. W. (1984), Mccombs, M. (1992,1994a,1994b), Mccombs, M. and Bell, T. (1997), Mcleod J., Becker L. and Byrnes J. (1974), Palmgreen P. and Clarke P. (1977), Stone, G. C. and Mccombs M. (1981), Walker, J. (1977), Wanta, W. and Wu, Y. (1992, 1994), Weaver, D. (1982), Winter, J. (1980), Zhu, J. (1992).
A related concept with the Agenda Setting, is the idea of Framing. Regarding the concept of framing, can be find several interpretations. On the one hand, the concept of framing is understood by several authors as an extension of the Agenda Setting theory. This way, they describe “framing” as the second level within the Agenda Setting. Tankard, Hendrickson and Silberman (1991, p.3) define “framing” as "the central organizing idea for news content that supplies a context and suggests what the issue is through the use of selection, emphasis, exclusion, and elaboration ". In recent years the theory of framing (Entman, 1993) has been disconnected of the Agenda Setting theory by some authors, arguing that the two theories are based on different premises (Scheufele, 1999, 2000).
On the other hand, in a broader approach, Entman (1993, p.52) propose that ''to frame is to select some aspects of a reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and / or treatment recommendation for the item described". Kuypers (2009: 190) affirms "Framing is a process whereby communicators, consciously or unconsciously, act to construct a point of view that encourages the facts of a given situation to be interpreted by others in a particular manner. Frames operate in four key ways: they define problems, diagnose causes, make moral judgments, and suggest remedies. Frames are often found within a narrative account of an issue or event and are generally the central organizing idea ". All these definitions or approaches underline the same idea: the framework shapes the information and adds emotions. In summary, these theories consider how the news agencies and the media decide the issues that must be addressed (Agenda Setting), and influences on what the people know about the reality through these news (McCombs, López & Llamas, 2000; Wimmer & Dominick, 2009).
3.2 Methods: Systematic Reviews and Critical Discourse Analysis
To carry out this research, two methods have been used to analyse the information. These methods are the Systematic Review and the Critical Discourse Analysis. In this section we will shortly define both methods.
3.2.1 Systematic Reviews
Systematic reviews (SR) are a specific type of review of the scientific literature. Its main implementation has been in the health sciences, although its use is progressively extended to other scientific disciplines. Gough, Oliver and Thomas (2012) proposed that a systematic review is a review of research literature using methods that are systematic, explicit and accountable1. As some authors pointed out, the notion of
systematic mean that “They’re called systematic because they’re transparent, and
because they treat every piece of research the same way – that’s not the same as every review treating studies in the same way…”2.
In SR the unit of analysis is the original primary studies. As stated by the authors Ferreira, Urrútia and Alonso-Coello (2011), SR constitute an essential tool to synthesize the available scientific information, increase the validity of the conclusions of individual studies and identify areas of uncertainty where research is necessary. The SR work with the information displayed on previous research reports. Systematic research uses these research reports to answer a clearly defined research question3. It presents
an important difference with those known as narrative reviews, in which opinion prevails and the review does not follow a systematic process.
Table 1. Differences Between Systematic and Narrative Reviews. Characteristic Narrative review Systematic review
Question of interest Not structured, not specific Structured question, well-defined problem
Article search and sources Not detailed and not systematic Structured and explicit search
Selection of articles of
interest Not detailed and not reproducible Selection based on explicit criteria uniformly applied to all articles Assessing the quality of
the information Absent Structured and explicit
Synthesis Often a qualitative summary Qualitative and quantitative summary
Inferences Sometimes evidence-based Normally evidence-based
Source: Adapted from Ferreira I., Urrútia G.,Alonso-Coello P., (2011)Systematic Reviews and Systematic Review: Scientific Rationale and Interpretation. Rev Esp Cardiol. 64:688-96 DOI: 10.1016/j.recesp.2011.03.029
2 Quoted on Oliver S, Dickson K, Bangpan M (2015) Systematic reviews: making them policy relevant. A
briefing for policy makers and systematic reviewers. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit,
UCL Institute of Education, University College London. Page 5
3 Gough D, Thomas J, Oliver S (2012) Clarifying differences between review designs and methods.
Ferreira I., Urrútia G.,Alonso-Coello P., specify that “Although SRs are a tool for synthesizing information, it is not always possible to present the results of the primary studies briefly. When results are not combined statistically, the SR is called a qualitative review. In contrast, a quantitative SR, or meta-analysis (MA) is an SR which uses statistical methods to combine the results of two or more studies”. (2011) In any case, qualitative or quantitative SR, they summarize the results of primary research using strategies to limit bias4. To do that, there are an exhaustive and systematic
search of all potentially relevant articles. These articles are selected by an explicit criterion and take into consideration the design and implementation of the original studies when synthesizing the data and comparing the results. In this case, a qualitative SR approach is used, since the coding systems used in the research reports are not standardized. As a systematization criterion to make the comparison and integration of the results, three theories will be applied. These theories are Agenda Setting, Framing and CDA.
3.2.2 Critical Discourse Analysis
The CDA is part of the research in Social Sciences within the Studies of Discourse. This method focuses on the role of discourse, its production and the power it exerts within social problems (Van Dijk, 2003). This theory tries to connect the discourse with the studies of the social structure, so that the linguistic, meaning and discursive aspects analyse the processes of transformation and construction of the social structure (Fairclough, 2001). The CDA offers an interpretative scheme to study social phenomena. Many authors have worked and researched about the methodological foundations of the Critical Discourse Analysis (Machin y Mayr 2012; Soler, S. 2008, 2011; Pini, M. & Gorostiaga, J. 2008, 2009; Fairclough, N. & Wodak, R. 2009; Van Dijk 2008, 2003, 1993; van Leeuwen 2005, 2008; Wodak y Meyer 2008; Wodak y Chilton 2005; Locke 2004; Young y Harrison 2004; Temple, S. 2001; Fairclough y Wodak 1997; Caldas-Coulthard y Coulthard 1996; Fairclough 1995a, 1992a, 1992b; Fowler et al. 1979)Probably, at least in Spain, the most quoted is Van Dijk. According to (Van Dijk,
1995) Critical Discourse Analysis focuses on how power and social inequality are represented, reproduced, legitimized and resisted in political and social discourse.
In this research, we will use the CDA as a model which can be approached in different ways: vocabulary, grammar, cohesion and textual structure. The analysis of texts not only needs its textual part but also needs a context and its relationship with other texts. In this way, textual networks and meaning connections are generated.
Fairclough and Wodak (1997) summarized the main characteristics of the ACD as follows:
- The CDA addresses social problems.
- Power relations are discursive.
- The discourse constitutes society and culture.
- The speech has ideological implications. - The speech is historical.
- The relationship between text and society is mediated.
- The discursive analysis is interpretive and explanatory. - Discourse is a form of social action.
This way, discourse analysis focuses on the discursive conditions, components and consequences of the abuse of power by dominant groups and institutions. Van Dijk (1988), underlines how the news headlines "define the overall coherence or semantic unity of discourse, and also what information readers memorize best from a news report" (van Dijk, 1988, p. 248).
Discourses serves the formulation, permanence and reproduction of the ways of being, and appear, of the social actors and also to the transformation of the status quo. Discourses materializes the ideologies or ideological systems in force in the culture. For that reason, discourses are a privileged documentation to study ideologies and social domination. Ideologies, constructed and expressed discursively, involve ways of producing and reproducing power relations that affect sectors of the population that, for historical, political, economic or other reasons, do not access the symbolic and material resources of the society in an equal manner. These forms of discrimination
and social exclusion are based, to a great extent, on the discursive representations of events, objects and, in general, the position that social actors occupy at specific socio-historical moments (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997). In this research we will approach the term "Discourse" from the point of view of linguists (Stubbs, 1983, van Dijk, 1987) and social theorists and analysts (Foucault 1972, Fraser, 1989). The term "discourse" refers to both spoken and written use, although its semiotic use within photography or nonverbal communication has also been expanded (Barthes, R. 1987). In this case we will use both written and non-verbal and photographic discourse.
In that sense, “Discourse is not simply an isolated textual or dialogic structure. Rather it is a complex communicative event that also embodies a social context, featuring participants (and their properties) as well as production and reception processes”. (van Dijk, 1988, p. 2). Van Dijk (1995) essentially perceives discourse analysis as an ideological analysis, because according to him, "ideologies are typically, though not exclusively, expressed and reproduced in discourse and communication, including non-verbal semiotic messages, such as pictures, photographs and movies" (van Dijk, 1995, p. 248).
- How do the contents of the Dilemmas campaign relate to the content transmitted by the mass media?
- Which, if any, are the differential features in the information?
- Is there a discursive conflict that express an underlying ideological conflict?
The main stages of a systematic review are the following. - Definition of the question of interest
- Search and selection of relevant studies according to criteria - Extraction of data and information from primary studies - Assess the quality of the data
- Analyse and combine information - Presentation of the results. a) Definition of the question of interest
The question of interest here is: what discourse on the refugee crisis has been used by the mass media in Europe?
b) Search and selection of relevant studies according to criteria
Since 2015 there are many research reports that study the mass media and their information about refugees. The table shows the research reports considered in this Systematic Review.
Table 2. Scientific reports and countries
Nº 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 France 4 N J N N Germany 8 OP N I J N N N/BBC N Greece 5 OP N I J N Hungary 3 N J N SM Sweden 3 J N/OP N/BBC Czech Republic 3 N N N Serbia 3 N N/OP N Spain 3 J N/OP N/BBC Ireland 2 N N United Kingdom 8 OP N N/OP TV/R/N N N N/BBC Austria 1 J SM Italy 5 J N/OP TV/R/N N N/BBC Malta 1 J Norway 1 N/OP Bulgaria 1 TV/R/N Turkey 1 TV/R/N Poland 1 N Latvia 1 N Portugal 1 N Ukraine 1 N
OP= Online Press N= Newspaper I= Interviews J= Journalist TV= Television R= Radio BBC= BBC news SM= Several Media
(1) Fotopoulos, S., & Kaimaklioti, M. (2016). Media discourse on the refugee crisis: on what have the Greek, German and British press focused? European View, 15(2), 265-279. Examines 1340 articles that were published online between 20 March and 31 May 2016 in Greece (Kathi- merini, To vima), Germany (Die Welt, Süddeutsche Zeitung) and the UK (The Guardian, The Telegraph).
(2) Georgiou, M., & Zaborowski, R. (2017). Media coverage of the “refugee crisis”: A cross-European perspective. Council of Europe. Analyse media coverage of “the refugee/migration crisis” is critical to understanding: (i.) narratives of “the crisis”; (ii.) geographical trends; (iii.) challenges to policy making, especially in relation to hate speech and freedom of expression. This report draws from a systematic year-long research project located at the Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science.
(3) Hannides, T., N. Bailey and D. Kaoukji (2016) Refugee voices: Information and communication needs of refugees in Greece and Germany. BBC Media Action. Available at http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mediaaction/pdf/research/voices-of-refugees-researclh report.pdf. A total of 66 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq participated in the qualitative study in formal and informal camps in Greece. An additional 13 interviews took place in Germany – capturing the voices of those who had completed their journey. A total of 16 focus group discussions were also conducted. Participants were asked to tell the story of their journey so far, focusing particularly on the information and communication they needed and used at different stages.
(4) EUROMED Migration IV (2017) How Does the Media on Both Sides of the Mediterranean Report on Migration: A study by journalists, for journalists and policy-makers The Ethical Journalism Network. Exams the media attitudes towards migration in 17 countries, nine of which members of the EU. Divided into 17 country chapters, their analyses are based on their insider knowledge and views of the realities of the newsroom, news gathering, editorial policies and various other constraints of professional journalistic work.
(5) Pierigh, F (2015) Changing the Narrative: Media Representation of Refugees and Migrants in Europe. Analyse Printed/Online Newspapers in 6 EU countries.
(6) White, A. (2015). Moving stories: International review of how media cover migration. London: Ethical Journalism Network. television and radio companies and major newspapers.
(7) Chouliaraki, L., Georgiou, M., Zaborowski, R., & Oomen, W. (2017). The European
“migration crisis” and the media: A cross.
(8) Research: How Europe’s Newspapers Reported The Migration Crisis. Examined how three newspapers in each country – representing broadly left, right and tabloid newspapers – covered three pivotal events concerning migrants and refugees in September 2015. Available at https://en.ejo.ch/research/research-how-europes-newspapers-reported-the-migration-crisis
(9) Berry, M., García-Blanco, I., & Moore, K. (2016). Press coverage of the refugee and migrant crisis in the EU: A content analysis of five European countries.
(10) Refugees and asylum seekers in press coverage (2016) The analysis was restricted to six European newspapers (including the British Sunday papers): Helsingin Sanomat and Aamulehti from Finland, The Times &The Sunday Times and The Guardian & The Observer from the UK, and the French-language Le Soir and the Dutch-language De Morgen from Belgium.
(11) Bernáth, G., & Messing, V. (2016). Infiltration of political meaning-production:
security threat or humanitarian crisis? The coverage of the refugee ‘crisis’ in the Austrian and Hungarian media in early autumn 2015. Research Report, CEU Center for
Table 3. Covers of Scientific reports
Source: covers of Scientific reports c) Extraction of data and information from primary studies
There were several research reports analysing the information on the arrival of refugees. When considering such studies, it is very important to control the period under observation. Specially because there were special events that generated conjunctural editorial policies. In fact, there were many research reports which highlighted the changes in the mass media communication agendas and frames in different countries when exposing the personal drama of refugees. This was the case of the use of photographs. Photos are very important to frame news. The selection of one or another photo impress people in different ways.
“Western European newspapers became significantly more sympathetic towards migrants and refugees immediately after photographs of a drowned boy on a Turkish beach were published at the beginning of September, but
within one week most had reverted to their original editorial position. By the end of the month all were less positive than at the beginning”5.
Some countries (like Hungary) do not let the media to publish that’s photo. Some research reports pointed out how in some countries they preferred to publish photos that show cuffed refugees and situations of violence.
These dynamics of change happened especially at the beginning of the crisis. Thus, for example, in the Council of Europe (2015) research report: Media coverage of the "refugee crisis" indicates three stages in 2015: "Period 1 (July): Careful tolerance" (after the massive drowning), "Period 2 (September): Ecstatic humanitarianism " (after photographs of the body of three-year old Alan Kurdi) and "Period 3 (November): Fear and securitization" (after the November Paris attacks). The European Journalism Observatory consider also three main events as a chronological reference but proposed a new one for the third stage: 23 of September. In this research report, they sketch two ideas. After September events, there was a decrease in the number of news about refugees, and in its contents, which now approach security concerns.
“The events studied were: 1) the photographs of the body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi, (2 September); 2) the day Germany introduced border controls (13 September); and the EU summit aimed at agreeing a common European approach to the crisis (23 September)”6.
Anyway, other studies affirm the change in the media for April 2015. Berry et al. (2015)7 in a research report published at the end of 2015, examines how the press in
five EU states reported on the refugee and migration crisis between 2014 and 2015, using two samples of news coverage. In the first sample of newspaper news they took information from 2014 and early 2015. The second sample focused in the April 18, 2015 boat disaster in the Mediterranean, using the information published during one-week. “There was a substantial shift from the first sample to the second in relation to how the conflict was explained and what solutions were visible. Whilst the first sample of news from newspaper presented the crisis as stemming from migration flows driven by wars, human rights abuses and repressive regimes” in the second sample of news,
5 https://en.ejo.ch/research/research-how-europes-newspapers-reported-the-migration-crisis 6 https://en.ejo.ch/research/research-how-europes-newspapers-reported-the-migration-crisis
7 Berry, M.; Garcia-Blanco, I. Kerry Moore K. (2015) Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries. Report prepared for the United Nations High
these were more focused on “Fortress Europe approaches such naval blockades, destruction of trafficking boats and military stabilisation plans for Libya” 8. This change
was specially observed in those mass media with centre and right-wing ideologies. One of the conclusions when reviewing the research reports is the importance to control the ideological diversity on the mass media. This is fundamental to analyse the dynamics of the mass media news in the 2014-2015 phase. What can be concluded, in any case, is the high volatility (both in agenda and framing) when informing on the crisis during this period. After the shocks that sensibly affects the ways of reporting during 2015, in the next years the editorial policies seem to stabilize.
In this Systematic Review of research reports, another significant conclusion in relation with the study of mass media and refugees is the national variability. Berry et al. (2015)9 noted that “There are wide variations in how the press in different countries
report on asylum and immigration” and there were also “significant differences in the level of variation within national press systems”. There was a national variability in the information, but a common reference to the European Union responsibility to give an answer to the crisis. The European Union was the reference to attribute responsibilities. The refugee crisis was, in summary, a crisis of the European Union and its efficacy to give a coordinated answer. One of the reasons of this is that the political orientations of the governments conditioned the management of the crisis and, at the same time, the contents of the information produced at national level. In many countries the mass media took the governmental declarations on the refugee crisis as the main source of information. A part of this information was against the administration of the European Union. Conservative governments and conservative media offered a very critical view of the European Union management of the crisis. For that reasons, the European Union’s response to the crisis was criticised even if considered the key institution responsible for solving the crisis.
The research reports show how the political agenda in all the countries (and the political parties strategies about asylum policies) conditioned how the mass media
8 Berry, M.; Garcia-Blanco, I. Kerry Moore K. (2015) Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries. Report prepared for the United Nations High
Commission for Refugees (December 2015)
9 Berry, M.; Garcia-Blanco, I. Kerry Moore K. (2015) Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries. Report prepared for the United Nations High
covered the refugee crisis. The relevance of domestic politics “varies significantly between states and newspapers within states”.
The same procedure happened with national journalistic practice, which determined the communicational agenda and frame of the news about refugees. In general, few mass media news focusses on the benefits to accept asylum seekers.
Another research report by the Council of Europe (CoE), “Media Coverage of the “Refugee Crisis”: A Cross-European perspective,” studied the mass media coverage of the refugee crisis in eight European countries (between summer and winter 2015). Their conclusions stated that “Refugees were given limited opportunities to speak of their experiences and suffering. Most often they were spoken about and represented in images as silent actors and victims.” Even more, refugees’ individual stories and lives do not appear in the news about them.
The Finnish Institute in London and The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux wrote a research report named “Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Press Coverage.”10 Based on
the analysis of eight newspapers in Finland, Belgium, and the UK in January 2016. In the case of UK press, the authors underline the effects of the Brexit process in the debate. The report concluded that the “voices of the refugees are heard less often than those of politicians and experts.” Refugees were silenced by the speeches of politicians.
Several reports of the Ethical Journalism Network for the Centre for Migration Policy Development (2017), as is the case of Moving Stories (White, 2015), pay a special attention to practical issues. In their opinion, there were objective limits (organization, communicational culture, competence of the reporters, material resources, etc.) that may also help to explain the bias against refugee in the news reporting on the refugee crisis. The conclusion of Moving Stories is that "many different parts of the world are remarkably similar: journalism under pressure from a weakening media economy [and] political bias and opportunism that drives the news agenda" increase "the dangers of hate-speech, stereotyping and social exclusion of refugees and migrants"11. This
10 Finnish Institute in London and The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux (2016) Refugees and asylum seekers in press coverage. A comparative content analysis of texts published in Helsingin Sanomat and Aamulehti (FI), The Guardian and The Times (UK) and Le Soir and De Morgen (BE) newspapers in the time period from 1 January to 31 January 2016
research report concluded that “the story of migration” (again the mixture of terms) was driven mainly by two themes: numbers and emotions. They show the frequent use of language with “negative connotations, such as the words invasion and swarm”. The EJN presented a report in 2017 on how the European mass media coped with the refugee crisis. This research report was based on the information gave by journalists from several countries12. In this research the analysis is done by the same reporters
that write the news and have a good knowledge on the editorial policies and the resources available. The research report insists in all the difficulties (lack of direct information, knowledge, skills, competence, etc.) that the reporters working in the mass media found to inform about the refugee crisis.
d) Assess the quality of the data
The Systematic Review propose to evaluate the quality of the information of the research reports. I have reviewed 11 research reports studying the information given by the mass media about the refugee crisis in Europe. To make the comparison of the different research reports I have selected two formal criteria. First, the agenda setting and second, the patterns of framing frequently used in the mass media considered by the research reports.
Considering the 11 research reports, many of them have a scientific design and give enough information to be evaluated. A few research reports do not give enough information, because used a reduced sample of media or, from the temporal point of view, the period for collecting the news is too short. Prior to the comparative analysis it is important to make some considerations about the methodological limits that conditioned it. The Systematic Review of the research reports has the following limitations:
- The mass media agenda and frames on the information of the refugee crisis changes over time
12 Ethical Journalism Network, How does the media on both sides of the Mediterranean report on migration? 2017, available at:
- The mass media in European countries are not homogeneous. There are contradictory editorial policies within a country (but are more homogeneous when considering ideological orientations).
- The reasons for select a specific mass media, and be included in the research, is not always well documented. Most research reports consider press, and not radio or television.
- Not all countries are present in all studies.
- Some the research reports only publish aggregate data for sets of countries. - Many research reports use content analysis but the codes or thematizations are not harmonized among different studies.
- The information is published in different national context, with very different mass media cultures.
- Mass media culture is also relevant because some countries, like Germany, have a long history of independent and powerful public mass media while others like Greece or Hungary do not have it.
Specifically, I must point out two observations in relation to the Agenda and Frames. First, in the case of the agenda setting, I have to note the coincidence of the refugee crisis with internal events in each country, as was the case of the Brexit in Great Britain. Second, considering the frame effects, the frames evolved with the phases that have modulated, at least initially, the information about the crisis.
For example, considering the research reports on mass media, a particularly significant country was Great Britain. However, the refugee crisis coincides with the campaigns for Brexit, the referendum to exit from the European Union. The political campaign of the mass media that supported the Brexit was especially oriented against foreigners and immigrants.
Another example, this time about agenda and news sampling, is France. The 2017 report analyze France but do not identify any issues related with refugees due to the political agenda: “It should be noted that although France carried out the media monitoring, no items were identified; there are, accordingly, no results from France. It may be that the preoccupation of the media during those days with the newly elected
French president, Emmanuel Macron”13. Special local events may displace out of the
agenda the information about the refugee crisis.
In relation with frames, the dynamics of the news and the shock caused by the massive arrival of refugees, do that mass media varied during 2015 their "frames" on several occasions. Considering all the research reports, it can be observed four stages on how the mass media framed the refugee crisis.
Phase 1. Frame: careful tolerance. The Council of Europe research report stated “By July 2015, Europe experienced three months of the current “refugee crisis” in the media, starting from reports about mass drownings in the Mediterranean in April and May (adding to previous, but less mediated reports about similar tragedies between January and March 2015)” 14.
Phase 2. Frame: ecstatic humanitarianism. The Council of Europe report continues “Mass media narratives changed significantly. Descriptions of measures to help refugees significantly dominated over measures to protect the country. Refugee emotions were most frequently featured in the narratives, compared to the other two periods, and there were significantly more mentions of positive consequences of the migrant arrivals than in July or November. For a while at least, Europe appeared from the narrative as a place of (relative) solidarity to the plight of asylum seekers” 15. The
EJO confirm that “Newspapers in Western Europe (Germany, Italian, Portugal and UK) devoted more space to the crisis and covered it in more detail. Positive articles about the domestic impact of migrants and domestic policy towards them also increased in Western European newspapers immediately after the publication of the Kurdi photographs. However, as with humanitarian positive stories, the increase was short-lived. This pattern was especially noticeable in the UK and in Portugal. Newspapers studied in Eastern European and Baltic countries devoted significantly less space to the crisis. Articles in these countries (Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia and Ukraine) generally
13 Changing the Narrative: Media Representation of Refugees and Migrants in Europe. Published November 2017. This report is provided by CCME and WACC Europe and is available at: http://www.refugeesreporting.eu/report/. Newspapers analysed: France: Le Monde, Le Figaro; Germany: Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; Greece: EFSYN, Kathimerini; Hungary: Magyar Nemzet, Népszabadság.
14 Council of Europe report: Media coverage of the “refugee crisis. 15 Council of Europe report: Media coverage of the “refugee crisis.
focused on policy (either domestic or European) rather than humanitarian issues and tended to be more negative, especially against the EU” 16.
Phase 317. Frame: security. This stage is characterized by the use of frames presenting
the European difficulties to handle the refugee crisis. “The reintroduction of border controls also provoked strongly negative reactions from some countries, but also divided opinion along political lines”. In Germany: “German newspaper coverage remained positive towards the migrants even after introduction of the border controls, but newspapers became more negative towards the EU after that date. All German outlets published negative articles about how other EU countries were handling the crisis, their reluctance to collaborate and accommodate more migrants”18.
Phase 4. Frame: fear and securitization. “Everything changed drastically after the November Paris attacks. In articles concerning refugees, defensive measures dominated over helping measure for the first time as a general trend. Negative geopolitical consequences of the migrant crisis appeared in almost half of the press articles of the period while the refugees were the most voiceless compared to July and September”. Europe was deep in shock – and the refugees appeared to be to blame”19.
In summary, in Phase 1 and especially in Phase 2 the majority of articles were sympathetic to the refugee and emphasized actions to assist asylum seekers in a variety of ways. In Phase 3, and especially after Phase 4, this trend was reversed and “over 60% of the actions mentioned were put in a defensive, militaristic frame” 20.
2015 was a year of strong contradictions. In July 2015, the European Council agreed on measures concerning relocating refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU Member States, while the Hungarian government announced its decision to start building a physical barrier along its Serbian border. The situation becomes more stable during 2016.
As usual, the dependence on secondary data (previous research designed by other researchers) affects the Systematic Review. Among other reasons, and in a significant
16 https://en.ejo.ch/research/research-how-europes-newspapers-reported-the-migration-crisis 17 https://en.ejo.ch/research/research-how-europes-newspapers-reported-the-migration-crisis 18 https://en.ejo.ch/research/research-how-europes-newspapers-reported-the-migration-crisis 19 Council of Europe report: Media coverage of the “refugee crisis.
way, the choice of countries to consider (there should be previous reports on those countries), the selection of media (the research reports work especially with newspapers), which media (they do not document why they have chosen one or another newspaper) or what coding systems or categories of analysis they used. In any case, the analysis of 11 research reports allows a broad view to the treatment of the means of the refugee crisis, as well as to the information offered in each country.
5. The research design
The research design has four main phases. Phase 1.
- Using SR on the scientific reports that analyse the information about refugee crisis on the mass media.
- The criteria for the review analysis is based on Agenda setting, Framing and CDA. - The conclusion is to answer, what discourse on the refugee have been used by the mass media in Europe?
- The campaign "Dilemma".
- The contents of the campaign. The conclusions of phase 1 are used as reference for conceptual analysis of Dilemma campaign.
The conclusion is to answer, which are the information of the UNHCR Dilemmas campaign?
Phase 3. Comparison
- In this phase a comparison is made on the informative elements that the two approaches contain. On the one hand, the information of mass media in Europe. On the other hand, the information of the Dilemmas campaign.
The conclusion is to answer, how do the contents of the Dilemmas campaign relate to the content transmitted by the mass media?
Phase 4. Conclusions and debate
- Finally, some conclusions are presented, and the deep meaning of the differences observed is discussed.
- Which, if any, are the differential features in the information? - Is there a discursive conflict that express an underlying ideological conflict?
6.1 Analyse and combine information
The Systematic Review has been organized as follow: study of the mass media agenda, as well as the frames they use to report on the crisis. The analytic approach is from CDA in order to evaluate the relation between mass media news and the "the system of mental representations and processes of group members" (van Dijk, p. 18). In this case, following the idea that mental representations "are often articulated along Us versus Them dimensions, in which speakers of one group will generally tend to present themselves or their own group in positive terms, and other groups in negative terms" (van Dijk, p. 22). As Cottle wrote, “The media occupy a key site and perform a crucial role in the public representation of unequal social relations and the play of cultural power. It is in and through representations, for example, that members of the media audience are variously invited to construct a sense of who “we” are in relation to who “we” are not” (Cottle, 2000: 2). This approach will be used for the Systematic Review and will allow us to consider all the reports together as one big fragmented picture. The CDA is the analytical approach applied to integrate the information contained in those research reports.
g) Presentation of the results of the Systematic Review
In summary, the effects of the Agenda Setting in the information about the refugees in European mass media are the follow.
a) As we can see in the research reports analyzed, the media do not explain the reasons why refugees have become refugees. What defines them as refugees (escaping from violence) is outside the mass media Agenda. The concealment of this fact is fundamental, since it allow to name "migrants" those who really are refugee. b) At the same time, when the conflict of origin is reported, the agenda pays special attention to the conflict in Syria. The mass media has used Syria as a synonym for refugees, not reporting on other crises. The agenda is occupied mainly by Syria. In fact, in UK, France and Germany “Globally, the public believes Syria is the country from
which the most refugees have fled over the last decade. However, the public is not aware of the high volumes of refugees originating from various countries across Africa and Asia. Despite more than one million refugees coming from Sudan and South Sudan combined, only 8% of the public recognize the scale of the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan”21. Clearly, in the mass media agenda the importance of the Syrian refugees is
higher than their real weight. For the European Union, the statistical data shows that Syrians are not the highest percentage of refugees asking for asylum. As can be seen in the following tables:
Table 4. Five main citizenship (non-EU) asylum applicant, 2017 (number of first time applicant, rounded figures)
France Albania 11.395 Afghanistan 6.555 Haiti 5.565 Sudan 4.665 Syria 4.615 Other 58.275 Germany Syria 48.970 Iraq 21.930 Afghanistan 16.425 Eritrea 10.225 Iran 8.610 Other 92.095 Greece Syria 16.345 Pakistan 8.350 Iraq 7.875 Afghanistan 7.485 Albania 2.345 Other 14.620 Hungary Afghanistan 1.365 Iraq 795 Syria 565 Pakistan 100 Iran 95 Other 195 Italy Nigeria 24.950 Bangladesh 12.125 Pakistan 9.470 Gambia 8.705 Ivory Coast 8.380 Other 62.920 Poland Russia 2.120 Tajikistan 85 Armenia 65 Turkey 45 Iraq 40 Other 650 Spain Venezuela 10.325 Syria 4.150 Colombia 2.410 Ukraine 2.185 Algeria 1.140 Other 10.235 Sweden Syria 5.250 Eritrea 1.540 Iraq 1.475 Afghanistan 1.245 Georgia 1.005 Other 11.675 Great Britain Iraq 3.260 Pakistan 3.125 Iran 3.050 Bangladesh 1.980 Afghanistan 1.915 Other 19.980
Source: Eurostat (online data code: migr_asyappctza)
21The research was commissioned by the Aurora Prize and conducted by Edelman Intelligence between March and
April 2016. Interviews with 4,600 individuals were conducted online across six countries, France, Germany, Iran, Lebanon, U.K., and U.S. The sample was representative of the general population in terms of age, gender and location in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany. http://auroraprizemedia.com/humanitarian-index-2016/#restoftext
If we observed the data from official statistics, with reference to the number of persons who requested political asylum in the European Union, between 2015 and 2016, more than 2.5 million persons applied for asylum. After the reinforcement of frontier, the figure on 2017 went lower.
c) The emphasis on Syrian produce two classes of refugees. The “first class” coming from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea, and a “second class” with the second largest group of refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, sub-Saharan Africa and Kurds. The Council of the European Union (on 22 September 2015) set the priority to recognize people from the first group as refugees. The mass media focus its information on Syrian as the main group of refugees, following the political agenda. There was not independence or objectivity in the mass media when reporting on the main flows of refugees.
d) The mass media agenda, in those cases when they inform about the origins of the refugees, consider people from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea as “good refugees” which merit to be relocated in the EU. All the refugees coming from the second group are labelled as “economic migrants”, that must be returned to their country of origin. No matter that in fact they escape from conflict, violence and war. As some research reports stated, “would this in the context of international law be mass “refoulement” (returning them to potentially threatening situations)”. 22 Nothing is said about this in
the mass media news.
e) Due to the effect of mass media agenda, there are an evident gap between reality and public opinion. This way, considering how many refugees from Syria are in the country “the public exaggerates the number of Syrian refugees their country has hosted. Both French and German publics overstate the volume of refugees taken in by their respective countries by a factor of five. French and German publics believe they have hosted 20,000 and 500,000 respectively. The actual figures are 4,000 and 105,000 respectively”23.
f) Likewise, the news reporting on refugees used a military and security narrative. While there are variations between countries, United Kingdom, France, Germany or
22 Moving Stories International Review of How Media Cover Migration. 2015. EJN.
23The research was commissioned by the Aurora Prize and conducted by Edelman Intelligence between March and
April 2016. Interviews with 4,600 individuals were conducted online across six countries, France, Germany, Iran, Lebanon, U.K., and U.S. The sample was representative of the general population in terms of age, gender and location in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany. http://auroraprizemedia.com/humanitarian-index-2016/#restoftext
Czech Republic shows a high percentage of stories on military actions, security and measures to protect Europe or the country (Georgiou, M., & Zaborowski, R. 2017). g) The mass media introduced as the main subjects the topics of national/international politics and crime into the agenda. Pierigh, F (2015) based on his study about press and the online news, indicated that 55% of the news had political contents and, in second order of frequency the "crime" with the 19%. Refugees as objects of politics concerns as well as their criminalization formed the bulk of the mass media agenda.
h) On the other hand, by focusing on the arrival of refugees in Europe, they did not
give any visibility to the problems of refugees in other countries. Refugees in non-European countries face as much or greater difficulties than those who arrive in European countries.
i) Even more, the difficulties of those displaced in their own country by the violence
are very important but none of “these issues are on the media’s radar” 24.
j) Another issue out of the agenda were the “refugees camps” in Hungary or the “hot
spot” in Greece. These problems did not appear in the European mass media agenda.
k) In general, the mass media agenda forgot the refugee rights and the international
In general, the refugee lives are out of the mass media agenda. The mass media did not give voice to them. Politicians, Ong’s, expert and many other speak about them. Rarely the mass media agenda gives them voice to speak about their life, experiences and suffering. That’s way “Refugee voices remained in minority across the sample compared to those who were allowed to speak. In all analysed countries, voices of representatives of national governments, governments of other countries or European politicians were featured in articles significantly more often than voices of asylum seekers”. (Georgiou, M., & Zaborowski, R. 2017.10)
In summary, the agenda was an institutional agenda and not a journalist agenda (trying to explain what was going on).
As well as the agenda, the mass media framed the news to support the main concepts of security, politics, crime, no rights for refugee, violence or borders. “Throughout the
24 The Ethical Journalism Network (2017) Media coverage and public perceptions of refugees and migrants. Avaliable at https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/media-coverage-public-perceptions-refugees-migrants
events of 2015-16, the media played a central role in providing information about the new arrivals and in framing these events as a “crisis”. While social media have also played a significant role in exchanging information across Europe and beyond (including among refugees themselves and as a link to the countries of origin), mainstream media’s informational role remains paramount” 25. Not only the process
was framed as a crisis. Much more than that. “Mainstream media still constitute key and trusted resources for officials and publics to make sense and take action in the course of events. In addition, while media are always important in framing events, in this case, their role has arguably been even more crucial than usual for two reasons: (i.) the scale and speed of events in the second half of 2015 meant that publics and policy makers depended on mediated information to make sense of developments on the ground; (ii.) the lack of familiarity with the new arrivals, their histories and the reasons for their plight meant that many Europeans depended exclusively on the media to understand what was happening” 26.
After the analysis of the eleven research reports on how the mass media informed about refugees, can be concluded that there were a few frames of reference27. The
four main frames of reference were:
- The frame that focus on security
- The frame that adopt humanitarian approach
- The frame that create confusion putting together economic migrations and refugees (promoting negative stereotypes)
- The frame that give voice to refugees explaining the violence behind their mobility.
Those were the frames that appear in the mass media, but clearly the most usual and extended frames are those of "security" and those which promotes the confusion
25 Georgiou, Myria and Zaborowski, Rafal (2017) Media coverage of the “refugee crisis”: A cross-European perspective. Council of Europe report, DG1(2017)03. Council of Europe. p.13
26 Georgiou, Myria and Zaborowski, Rafal (2017) Media coverage of the “refugee crisis”: A cross-European perspective. Council of Europe report, DG1(2017)03. Council of Europe. p.13
27 For example, Liga Ozolina, summarize the overall attitude towards migrants and refugees in the Latvian papers as negative. “There were three prevailing views used in the public debate: economics, cultural differences and barriers”