Refugees in the news: Comparing Belgian and Swedish newspaper coverage of the European refugee situation during summer 2015

Communications 43 (3):301-323 (2018)
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This comparative content analysis of Belgian and Swedish newspaper coverage of the ‘refugee situation’ in 2015 (N=898) revolves around responsibility indicators, news actor characteristics, and thematic emphasis. As they are a potential influential factor in the public-opinion formation process, the studying of media portrayals is an essential first step in investigating the dynamic interplay between media discourse and societal reactions. Belgium and Sweden differ with respect to migration policy, integration indicators, and the number of incoming refugees. They also differ in terms of journalistic cultural values. As a result, they make for an excellent case study of intercultural differences and similarities in how refugees are reported on. Our analysis made clear that Belgian news coverage shows regional diversity, with Francophone Belgian journalists showing more tolerance towards migrants and thus tending to be more in line with their Swedish counterparts. Still, refugees are seldom allowed to speak for themselves. This warrants attention and action by news professionals.



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