Norway: Immigrants, Muslims portrayed negatively in the media

Norway: Immigrants, Muslims portrayed negatively in the media

The IMDI report is available here (in Norwegian)


The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDI) published a report on Tuesday "Immigrants in Norwegian media: Media caused Islam fear and invisible day to day life", a detailed report on how immigrants are portrayed in Norwegian media.

The report shows that in 2009 there were just as many reports about Islam and Muslims (77,000) as there were about PM Jens Stoltenberg, and more than about the swine flu (74,000).

71% of all media reports focusing on immigration or integration were assessed as problem-oriented.

There's increased attention to religion, and especially to Islam, the report shows, and large focus on people from Somalia. Less visible in the media are the part of the integration efforts which are going well.

Somalis were the immigrant group most talked about, and that was often linked to crime, cultural practices and 'lacking integration'. Muslims and Somalis were portrayed particularly biased and negatively.

The conclusion shows that these immigrant group experience the most discrimination. 80% of those who have lived in Norway for a long time say they feel integrated, but 50% also feel discriminated.

IMDI says that when talking of immigrants who did anything criminal, their immigrant background is often brought up. Immigrants who do well in sports or culture are, on the hand, described as 'Norewgian'. The report says that while most of the government's integration effort are directed at getting immigrants to learn Norwegian and economically independent. The media coverage rarely corresponds to what the government thinks is important for good integration.

"Immigrants" and "Norwegians" are often used as opposites. Since the media is the most important source for information about immigrants, IMDI is critically questioning the media and its work.

Asmund Kalheim of IMDI thinks the report warns that a negative media picture of a group of a nationality over time contribute to creating negative attitudes which can lead to increased discrimination.

The report was published with help from representatives of academia, media and people of immigrant background.

Kalheim says he's surprised that Islam is more important for the media than swine-flu, education, children's welfare and environmental and climate issues. Even Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize didn't reach that level, he says.

But, he adds, he's not surprised that the media logic focuses on sensation, dramatics and showing the most extreme on every side of the debate.

Kalheim says they see a change in the media coverage. While in the past they focused on where people came from, now's there more focus on their religion.

"There's much pointing to the fact that this is an international trend. That there's increased attention to Islam and Muslims, and that this attention is mostly negative," he says.

"Firstly, it must be a little sad for Jens Stoltenberg that Islam and Muslims are named more than him. He should be present more in the integration debate," says Trude Ringheim, Dagbladet commentator.

She agrees that the press is occupied by hijab and Islam. She says it's negative and stigmatizing in several ways, but that she also thinks there has been a lot of good informational pieces in the past year.

The report says that more than 70% of the articles were conflict-oriented. Kalheim says only a small percentage of the reports were resource-oriented or neutral (11%).

Q: But isn't it normal that the press is conflict oriented?

A: Yes, in any case for tabloid papers. To get us to write more about common, normal and pleasant day to day life, is probably a lost case. But I agree that there are many amusing, good stories we should tell. She should be more out there. And we should tell the stories of those who come to Norway, about their whole lives. And set their lives in greater perspective, something we're not good enough in doing today."

Kalheim says that the IMDI isn't trying to do media criticism, but rather society-analysis and self-criticism.

"On the social level we're concerned about warning against a development where a colossal negative media description overall of a group of a national contribute to creating negative attitudes which can be dangerous in the sense that it leads to increased discrimination - that more people are discriminated relating to residence, work and other ways. It's unacceptable and it's an undesired development."

He says various immigrants, especially Somalis and other Muslims, say they experience this type of discrimination.

"There are various Muslims and Somalis who say that it's exactly what's happening, and that's a warning sign for a diverse society," says Kalheim.

Mazyar Keshvari of the Progress Party in Oslo, defends the media. Keshvari says that they're simplifying the debate too much when they just count the positive and negative stories. There are also ethnic Norwegians who are described most negatively.

He thinks the press won't be doing their job if they hide the actual circumstances when it comes to immigrants.

"Since IMDI are concerned by statistics, they could look at statistics for participation in the job market or aggravated rapes. All the aggravated rapes in Oslo last year were committed by non-Western immigrants. It's the media's job to report on this, if not they would be doing their job," Keshvari told Nettavisen

Sources: TV2 Nyhetene, Nettavisen, NTB info (Norwegian)

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