Media reports on Muslims are contributing to a rise in Islamophobia with most British news outlets giving a “negative and misleading” coverage of the community, a first of its kind study has found.
The study analysed more than 10,000 news articles and broadcasts in the UK from 2018 and identified “serious problems” in the way British media reports about Islam or Muslims, its authors said.
The study found the Mail on Sunday had the most negative coverage of Islam, with 78% of its stories featuring Muslims having negative themes – above an already-high industry average of 59%.
On the other hand, it said the Guardian, the New Statesman, and the Independent had the least negative portrayal of Muslims.
The findings come amid growing scrutiny of Islamophobia in the Conservative party and whether its roots lie in right-wing media coverage. A YouGov poll of Tory members by the campaign group Hope Not to Hate found that 60% believe “Islam is generally a threat to western civilization” and more than half believe “Islam is generally a threat to the British way of life”.
In television, Sky News had the highest proportion of misleading coverage, with 14 percent of its clips rated “very biased”, the study said.
It said that regional TV broadcasters presented a more supportive coverage of Muslims, with the ITV’s regional channels having no content they could call “very biased”.
The study said Muslim women were either “othered” through misrepresentative choices of images or silenced through a general lack of due prominence.
Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain said he did not want to stop news outlets reporting on negative stories about Muslims but asked journalists to ensure that they considered the tone of their coverage.
He also encouraged news outlets to include more positive stories about Muslims and not simply focus on terrorists and extremists.
“You need to ensure that when you write a negative story it is fair and reflective and doesn’t generalize about all Muslims and feed into a broader far-right narrative,” he said. “In addition to that, there’s an issue of standing back and looking at all the stories out there and seeing if we’re reflecting all the stories. Are we only covering the worst Muslims out there?”
Versi said there had been notable changes at some outlets recently. “There has been a movement in the right direction and the number of front pages of the Daily Express which are specifically about Muslims or migrants has gone down significantly.”