Refugees: ‘normal’ people like us that take off their shoes before entering ‘their house’, which does not exist : A comparative framing analysis: how four Dutch newspapers covered the fires in refugee camp Moria
Abstract: During the 2010’s a new situation emerged due to the influx of people using the Mediterranean Sea route. Around its peak in 2015, widespread media coverage constructed this crisis as ‘the refugee crisis’. Camps like Moria became the emblem of the refugee crisis, yet, more than half a decade later, the ‘crisis’ has yet to be resolved. And, amid a pandemic, a global crisis, not the least affecting refugees, yet another ‘crisis’ arose during the night of 8th/9th September 2020 when a series of fires almost completely destroyed refugee camp Moria, leaving more than 10.000 refugees ‘homeless’. It is in this unique context, at the intersection of ‘the refugee crisis’, ‘the corona crisis’ and ‘the fires in camp Moria’ that this exploratory study captures written news coverage from the four biggest Dutch newspapers, engaging with the refugee crisis in the first week after the fires (9-15 September 2020). It does so, with the aim of exploring the range of frames used to (re)construct the refugee crisis, thereby making certain meanings more likely to be conveyed than others. Directed at an event focussed time frame within an understudied national context, this study zooms in on a moment of heightened media import to explore the (re)construction of frames as the situation unfolds. To this end, a qualitative inductive framing analysis, focussing on how the frames are reconstructed through framing and reasoning devices, has been conducted on a total of 60 articles. Including both broadsheets and tabloids with diverse political backgrounds in the sample, significant differences between the coverage of the two tabloids and the two broadsheets were found. The former (tabloids, Telegraaf politically right oriented and AD politically neutral oriented) significantly distance the situation in Moria, the refugees and the refugee crisis as a whole, quite often even framing the refugees as a problem while rejecting humanitarian grounds. The latter (broadsheets, Volkskrant politically (centre) left oriented and NRC politically centre right oriented) were found to centralize humanisation and identification within a humanitarian frame, while problematizing, and assigning responsibility to political handling. Furthermore, the coverage of the tabloids is characterised by more superficial, descriptive accounts, using little framing devices, while the coverage of both broadsheets is saturated with framing devices to substantiate the humanitarian frame. Finally, the study also found similarities on the level of incorrect labelling (the usage of migrants instead of, or as interchangeable with refugees) and ‘voicelesness’ (the rare opportunity for refugees to speak). The sample articles more often than not mix labels. Furthermore, the broadsheets give (multiple) refugees a voice in respectively 2 (Volkskrant) and 3 (NRC) articles. And in doing so, these articles actually centralize those accounts. Both tabloids on the other hand, only briefly quote an anonymous and un-contextualised refugee once. Although the broadsheets ‘do better’, still, overwhelmingly, refugees themselves do not play a role in their representation and framing.
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