'How Pro-Migrant Bias Backfired' Against European Media on Refugee Crimes

February 23rd, 2016 7:14 AM

The Christian Science Monitor Weekly carried an interesting article headlined “How pro-migrant bias backfired: Media tried to play down crime and instead ignited backlash.” Elisabeth Braw found European media lost credibility by trying to avoid reporting the crimes of Arab refugees.

The mass sexual harassment and pickpocketing that took place on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Germany, has changed the tone of reporting on migrant issues in Western Europe. As news of the attacks spread, so too, did awareness that both police and news media had been reluctant to connect the crimes with the "North African" and "foreign-looking" men described as the perpetrators, out of fear of fanning xenophobic flames.

Soon, other instances emerged – in Sweden, Germany, and elsewhere – of covered-up criminality alleged to have involved refugees and other immigrants from outside Europe. The media's willingness to turn a blind eye backfired . Instead of tamping down anti-migrant sentiments, journalists created not only a more migrant-hostile atmosphere, but also heightened public distrust of both media and police.

Now, the public – and media – in the two nations with the largest migrant populations in Europe  are struggling with a difficult balancing act: How do you report and respond to crimes among the new arrivals without stoking the far-right factions that want to keep all migrants out?

Nowhere in this brief article (or in the larger online version) is there any mention of Islam, so even in a story on concealing details out of political correctness, there’s some concealing details out of political correctness.

Online, you can quickly get a sense of the usual liberal-media feeling that some news isn’t “newsworthy” if it helps “anti-immigration” parties grow in popularity.

The coverage of immigrants’ sexual harassment of women has almost turned into a proxy for the debate on immigration that liberal countries such as Sweden and Germany haven’t had.

Tommy Möller, a professor of political science at Stockholm University, says that “recent events have made things easier for people who oppose immigration. The [far-right] Sweden Democrats don’t need to say a thing. They’ll barely need to run an election campaign next time.”...

“The intention [of not disclosing the Cologne perpetrators’ immigrant identity] may be good: not to feed xenophobia," wrote journalist and former politician Susanne Gaschke in a commentary for German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. "But the strategy of solicitous concealment is not very promising. 60 percent of our citizens now consider the number of refugees too high.”