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Face the Facts: Activity 2 - rightsED

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Face the facts - Activity sheet 2

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Refugees in the media

The role of the media in helping shape public opinion in relation to refugee and asylum seekers and many issues has long been debated.

The Australian Journalists' Association's Code of Ethics describes the role of journalists as:

Respect for truth and the public's right to information are fundamental principles of journalism. Journalists describe society to itself. They
convey information, ideas and opinions, a privileged role….

1a. Is this reflected in how news and current affairs journalists report on refugees and asylum seekers? Or do journalists, editors and newspaper
proprietors actually shape public perceptions and opinions about refugees and asylum seekers? Discuss the language used in newspaper articles to
describe refugees and asylum seekers with your classmates.

Consider the following points:

  • Language is a crucial tool for legitimising political agendas. Has the language used in recent media reports and commentaries on refugees and
    asylum seekers positioned the reader to accept certain political agendas or viewpoints?
  • Newspapers often use labels and titles to describe people, places and events. For example, a person can be referred to as an 'illegal' or an
    'asylum seeker.' The use of positive or negative words or words with a particular connotation can strongly influence the reader.
  • Who are the spokespeople for the issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers in the news? Is one group represented more often than others?
    Who has the dominant 'voice'?
  • How do the 'mainstream media' portray activist groups who are campaigning about refugee and asylum seeker issues?
  • What kinds of 'experts' have you read, seen or heard quoted speaking about refugees and asylum seekers recently? Has the media offered
    'experts' on all sides of the debate?
  • Has the recent media coverage of refugees and asylum seekers encouraged negative attitudes towards these groups within Australian society? How
    can this be assessed?
  • Has the news media been accurate, fair, responsible and effective in recent coverage of refugee issues in Australia? Why/why not?
  • If the media is said to be a reflection of society, it follows that different forms of media are written to appeal specifically to particular
    audiences. Do broadsheets such as the Sydney Morning Herald or tabloid newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph present refugees issues in a
    different manner to each other?

1b. At the end of your discussion, write a list of words which have been used to describe refugees and asylum seekers in recent newspaper articles you
have read.

Terminology - language to describe refugees and asylum seekers


Asylum seekers

After you have identified your list, use Face the Facts - Questions and Answers about Asylum Seekers and Refugees to find definitions
and clarify any areas of confusion.

2. Undertake an audit of at least two newspaper articles about issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers. The articles you explore should come
from different newspapers and should relate to a similar event or issue. For example explore several articles about refugees or a immigration detention

A table has been included below to assist you with your audit. Identify words used to describe refugees and asylum seekers in the articles you have

Newspaper audit

Article 1

Article 2

Sort the words you have discovered into two categories; positive and negative words

What perspectives and attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers does the article create for the reader?

How do the images included with the article affect your perceptions of the articles you have read? Do the images influence meaning?

Is the article fair? Does it present both sides of the debate?

3. Write your own newspaper story about refugees and asylum seekers. Imagine the following scenario and use the information you discovered in your
newspaper audit to inform your writing.

Imagine you are a journalist.

Write a 300 word story on an Iraqi family who were forced to flee their homeland due to ethnic persecution and have arrived ('illegally') in
Australia seeking refuge. Present your story in newspaper format - include a headline that describes your story.

Handy hints

  • Consider the results of your newspaper audit when writing your story.
  • Use the information you have discovered in the statistics to make sure your facts are correct.
  • Use correct terminology and include statistics to back up your story where appropriate.
  • Explore newspapers and the internet to gather details from real life stories to include in your article.
  • Keep in mind the terms you use to describe this family and the message you are trying to get across to your readers.
  • Explore the internet, newspapers and magazines to find an appropriate image to accompany your story.
  • How does the image influence your readers?
  • Think carefully about the language you use in your headline.
  • Consider how the headline positions your reader