Islam’s representation in the media is repeatedly linked to controversial events and conflicts. One of the main goals of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) is to counter the polarization and extremism between communities, with special reference to the media’s portrayal of divides between the so-called Muslim and Western worlds.
Given the dominance of media today as a provider and gatekeeper of information, individuals must be aware of how the media deal with migrants, multiculturalism, and, in this particular case, Islam and Muslims. They should be enabled and encouraged to develop critical thinking skills in order to differentiate media messages and identify stereotypes, Islamophobia, radicalism, and bias within the media discourse. One of the major areas of programming for the UNAOC is the Media Literacy program that works on these issues.
In collaboration with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, a research study carried out by partners at the University of Maryland and the University Autònoma of Barcelona (Spain) observed and analyzed the impact that the “Ground Zero” Mosque controversy of 2010 had on media. To do so, the research teams analyzed online and printed media from the US, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
The research shows that in the US different political interests set the media agenda. Internationally, while news outlets were conscious of the harmful nature of misuse of terminology — as evidenced by warnings of bigotry and Islamophobia — their reports still focused on confrontation. Media concentrated on the sensational part of the story. Drawing an emotional connection with readers was seen as more effective than the information itself.
Additionally, international media told the story through the US media lens. Jurnalists used information elaborated by other journalists as a primary source, which helped to produce perceptions of fear and threat. Insufficient knowledge and the misuse of terminology, therefore, may create a disinformation effect that can threaten peace in multicultural communities.
For more information about Uncovering Media Bias: The “Ground Zero Mosque” Case Study, please visit: http://uncoveringbias.wordpress.com/.
Or, contact Jordi Torrent, Project Manager of Media Literacy Education at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, at torrent(at)un.org