Landmark report finds widespread anti-Muslim bias in press coverage

The report found that almost 60% of the articles and 47% of the television clips associated Muslims and/or Islam with negative aspects of behaviour.

Islamophobia Awareness Month

A landmark report which looks at how Islam and Muslims are reported on in the British media, has found widespread anti-Muslim bias in press coverage.

The report, based on research from the Muslim Council of Britain’s Centre for Media Monitoring, analysed over 48,000 online articles and 5,500 broadcast clips between October 2018 and September 2019. It found that almost 60 percent of the articles and 47 percent of the television clips associated Muslims and/or Islam with negative aspects of behaviour.

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.

The Times, which published the false “Christian Child Forced into Muslim Foster Care” story is found to have repeatedly maligned Muslims as well as Muslim institutions.

The report is calling for fairer reporting of Islam and Muslims. It also found that right leaning and religious publications have a greater percentage of articles demonstrating a bias against Muslim belief or behaviour or which generalise or misrepresent Muslim belief or behaviour.

When it came to national broadcasters, the report found that they have a higher percentage of bias against Muslims and/or Islam as opposed to regional broadcasters. 47% of all clips showed Muslims and/or Islam in a manner which presented negative aspects and/or behaviour and right-wing pundits were on many occasions left unchallenged when making generalisations against Muslims including promoting falsehoods.

Almost one in ten online articles analysed misrepresented Muslims and/or Islam, with the majority of misrepresentation (82 percent) coming from news reporting.

The findings of the report have been welcomed by the editors of The Sunday Times and Daily Mirror.

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.”

Among the report’s recommendations was for news wire agencies in particular, to take care in the terms they use ‘given they are often copied wholesale in other print media’.

The Director of MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring, Rizwana Hamid said: “This latest report does not seek to place blame on any newspaper or broadcaster nor on any individual journalist or reporter. 

“CfMM remains committed to a free media which reports without fear or favour and holds those in positions of power to account. However, it is time for the industry to admit that, on occasion and too often when it comes to Muslims and Islam, it gets things wrong. Media professionals should welcome this scrutiny, and put in place these recommendations to improve journalistic standards.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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