Ed’s Weblog

…now my real blog


Posted by Ed on May 5, 2003

Charl links on his weblog to an article on the (self-imposed) censorship of the American media during the war on Iraq.

“Editors across the US also worked hard to avoid the grisly images of war, especially scenes of dead Iraqi civilians and Americans, while Europeans saw uncensored horrific images.”

Al-Jazeera was roundly attacked for showing such images, including those of a young boy with half his head blown off. I applaud al-Jazeera for this action, and agree with Charl that had these sorts of images been more widely shown in the western media, many people would think differently about the so-called ‘liberation’ of Iraq.

But let’s not forget that its not only the US media who are guilty of such crimes of omission. John Pilger has an article on his website discussing similar themes. He points out that ‘a study of the reporting of the war in five countries shows that the BBC allowed the least anti-war dissent of them all. Its 2 per cent dissenting views was lower even than the 7 per cent on the American channel ABC’.

Its not, however, just the blatant misreporting of facts (and fictions) that influences the way people think, but the insidious misuse of language. For a long time now, the British tabloid press have been particularly offensive in their reporting of subjects such as asylum seekers. A few years ago, the term ‘bogus asylum seeker’ was so often seen in the papers that it became an expression which was ingrained in the national psyche. That is to say, asylum seekers were automatically considered ‘bogus’, whether they were or not. This attitude prevails today.

Last week the British National Party (an extremely right wing and racist party) doubled the number of local councillors it has in England. This was in large part a consequence of constant stories in the press linking asylum seekers to rising crime. A recent report in The Observer polled public perceptions of crime and compared that with actual crime figures:

“Three out of four people in Britain think crime is rising, although official statistics show it has been falling for a decade.”

A recent Guardian article dispels a few asylum myths:

“The notion of “asylum burden” is a relative concept. Yes, in terms of absolute numbers, Britain received the most applications in Europe last year. But this refers to requests for refugee status, rather than the number to whom it is granted. And although the number of applications to the UK has been high in recent years, when looked at per capita Britain remains mid-table; indeed, below the EU average.”

And finally, the absolute proof that tabloid propaganda works:

“Of the world’s 12 million refugees, developing countries together provide asylum for 72% of them. But despite this, a Mori poll conducted in May last year found that the general public believed that around 23% of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers resided in the UK – the true figure was less than 2%.”


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