The European Union (EU) was the epicentre of one of the most unprecedented refugee crises of this century. In 2015, when 1.3 million refugees sought asylum in the EU, the reaction of the media lacked empathy. According to some of the news channels, these 1.3 million people were ‘migrants’ and not ‘refugees’. This essentially meant that these people were not eligible for the protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention. During the crisis when the United Kingdom was still a part of the EU, its state-based tabloid ‘The Sun’ ran anti-refugee headlines such as ‘Halt the Asylum Tide Now’ and ‘Draw a Red Line on Immigration or Else!’. Usually, it is expected from the media to show empathy towards the people on the move in such kinds of humanitarian crises because they play a major role in influencing public opinion. But according to the report of the Ethical Journalism Network, media houses in more than 14 EU member states contributed to the distorted image of refugees during the crisis.
Nothing much has changed even after five years of the crisis. As the UK still remains a part of Europe, such rhetorics against refugees continue through unilateral and inadequate reporting. Many EU member states such as Poland, Croatia, and Hungary have state-sponsored media channels. Recently, media houses in Poland published news on how the refugees coming to Poland have Islamophobic and sexually explicit content on their mobile phones. Their movement was even referred to as ‘politically motivated mass migration’. This happened after the Polish government imposed a state of emergency on the border with Belarus which has completely restricted the media to report on any movement across the border. Last year, the Hungarian government established new editorial rules on how media should report on migration, EU politics, and terrorism. According to these rules, which were criticised by the European Federation of Journalists, the media staff will have to take permission from the higher government authorities before publishing on these issues. The rise of populism along with half-baked dissemination of information has resulted in the violation of the human rights of the refugees.