Given the well-documented negativity bias in the news, it is not surprising that negative frames of migration as a problem, crisis, or even threat dominate media representations of refugees and migrants (see also the entry on “frames of migration”). Mass media offer an optimal platform to spread fake news on various topics, including migration (Ireton and Posetti 2018); however, they can also serve to convey the sense of a moral obligation to help migrants and refugees. This often manifests itself in attempts to foreground the actions and activities of a committed civil society or emphasizes the broad willingness among national populations to support groups on the move (Greussing and Boomgaarden 2017, 1756; Heidenreich et al. 2017, 177–178). These examples testify to the existence of an imparted will to help in mass media which is mainly brought about through framing practices foregrounding humanitarian aspects of migration (see also the entry on “frame analysis”).
However, such humanitarian narratives on migration can also achieve the opposite of the intended effect and contribute to the victimization of refugees. The reason for this is that they tend to focus on migrants’ need of assistance, thus characterizing them as desperate, suffering, and in constant lack of individual agency (Greussing and Boomgaarden 2017, 1750). In this respect, victimization is closely linked to the refugee archetype (see the respective entry), which stigmatizes certain types of refugees as victims due to aspects of their identity such as their gender or their origin. Sophie Lecheler et al. (2019, 694–695) consequently caution us that, even if they often emanate from a humanitarian perspective which is built on ethical concerns and moral convictions, practices of victimization can easily turn into practices of objectifying and dehumanizing refugees.
⇢ see also Agency, Frame analysis (aka framing analysis), Frames of migration, Gender, Refugee archetype, Othering
References and further reading:
Greussing, Esther, and Hajo G. Boomgaarden. 2017. “Shifting the Refugee Narrative? An Automated Frame Analysis of Europe’s 2015 Refugee Crisis.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 43.11: 1749–1774.
Heidenreich, Tobias, Fabienne Lind, Jakob-Moritz Eberl, and Hajo G. Boomgaarden. 2019. “Media Framing Dynamics of the ‘European Refugee Crisis’: A Comparative Topic Modelling Approach.” Journal of Refugee Studies 32: 172–182.
Lecheler, Sophie, Jörg Matthes and Hajo G. Boomgaarden. 2019. “Setting the Agenda for Research on Media and Migration: State-of-the-Art and Directions for Future Research.” Mass Communication and Society 22: 691–707.
Ireton, Cherilyn, and Julie Posetti. 2018. Journalism, Fake News & Disinformation: Handbook for Journalism Education and Training. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Accessed July 20, 2023. URL: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265552.
Work Package: 2, 4, 5
[BBK / CG]