Coverage of Muslims and Islam in UK media is mostly negative, study finds

The report by the CfMM analysed over 48,000 online articles and 5,500 broadcast examples from 34 media organisations (Getty Images)
The report by the CfMM analysed over 48,000 online articles and 5,500 broadcast examples from 34 media organisations (Getty Images)

A report into media coverage of Muslims and Islam in the UK has found the majority of articles have a negative slant, a study has found.

The report by the Centre for Media Monitoring analysed more than 48,000 online articles and 5,500 broadcast clips from 34 media organisations that mentioned Islam and Muslims between 2018 and 2019.

The study, commissioned by the Muslim Council of Britain, found that almost 60 per cent of articles portrayed Islam negatively and one in five associated the faith with terrorism or extremism.

The 162-page study has been welcomed by editors of publications including The Mirror and The Sunday Times, who said news outlets have a “duty” of accuracy and fairness to their audiences.

The report revealed that 59 per cent of online media outlets associated Muslims and Islam with negative aspects or behaviour, with right-leaning newspapers and wire services being most likely to do so.

It also found that 47 per cent of all broadcast clips analysed showed Islam and Muslims in a negative light, and one in 10 articles misrepresented the faith.

Other key findings were that seven per cent of articles analysed included generalisations, with most made on the topics of terrorism and extremism (25 per cent), followed by politics (18 per cent) and the Middle East (17 per cent).

Upon publication, Alison Phillips, editor 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.

“Everyone who works in the media has a duty to ensure the content they create is fair and responsible. That duty is even greater for those who work in reporting news which shapes the national debate. Yet this report records that the majority of media misrepresentation is still happening within news.”

Emma Tucker, editor of The Sunday Times, said: “I welcome this report - in the full knowledge that it contains criticisms of the press, my own paper included.”

She added: “We still have a way to go but increasingly, the people making the decisions in the newsroom are a more accurate reflection of the public they serve.”

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.

“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.”

The study also provided recommendations for media publications going forward, such as avoiding linking ordinary Muslims to crime, terrorism or extremism unless there is a justifiable reason to do so, encouraging more diversity in newsrooms and for reporters to be aware of and reflect on potential biases.

The author of the report, journalist Faisal Hanif, said: “While neither Muslims nor Islam should be immune from criticism or inquiry, where warranted, we do expect this to be done fairly and with due care, without resorting to well-worn tropes and generalisations.

“This study is valuable to both the academic community, and more so to newsrooms and journalists, and will in some way go towards improving reporting and coverage of Muslims and their beliefs in the coming years.”

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