Media cultivating 'climate of hostility' towards gypsies and Muslims

15th June, 2005

The British media is encouraging a "climate of hostility" towards asylum seekers, refugees, Muslims, Roma/Gypsies and Travellers, a new report says.

Published by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) yesterday, it said that organisations active in combating racism placed media reporting on asylum, immigration and terrorism at the centre of their concerns.

"In the asylum and immigration field, the media are, for instance, reported to have continued to use provocative, sensationalist and sometimes outright racist language, present facts and statistics in a biased way, and accompany articles with threatening images," it says.

The ECRI was established by the Strasbourg based Council of Europe to be an independent human rights monitoring body that specialises in issues relating to racism and intolerance.

The report states that newspapers continue to unfairly villified Muslims: "Members of the Muslim communities also experience prejudice and discrimination, especially in connection with the implementation of legislation and policies against terrorism.

"As concerns terrorism, it has been pointed out, inter alia, that the media tend to give extensive coverage to arrests of suspects of terrorism, who are predominantly Muslims, but fail to report on their release, which has reportedly followed almost each of such arrests."

It is the ECRI's third report on the racial integration in the UK. The organisation noted that some progress had been made since its last report in 2002, notably that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) issued guidelines in October 2003 on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on asylum and refugees.

However the PCC has no statuatory power to enforce the guidelines and has consistently seen them being flouted.

"In spite of initiatives taken, members of ethnic and religious minority groups continue to experience racism and discrimination," the report states in its summary.

It called upon the government to ensure that "reporting does not contribute to creating an atmosphere of hostility and rejection" towards minority groups and play a more proactive role in countering such an atmosphere.

"ECRI recommends that the authorities of the United Kingdom engage in a debate with the media and members of other relevant civil society groups on how this could best be achieved," it added.

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