Muslim Council of Britain launches Centre for Media Monitoring

By agency reporter
July 12, 2019

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) officially launched the Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) and its first quarterly report, State of Media Reporting on Islam and Muslims in Parliament on 9 July 2019. The project expands the work that has elicited over 100 corrections on inaccurate stories in national media, to a broader remit of tackling the serious problem of bias.

The CfMM’s goal is to promote fair and responsible reporting of Muslims and Islam, by engaging constructively with the media and empowering communities to make a change.

The launch in Parliament, hosted by Naz Shah MP (Shadow Minister of State for Women and Equalities), heard from a number of speakers:

  • Yasmin Qureshi MP, Chair, APPG on Religion in the Media
  • Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former Conservative Party Chair
  • Gary Jones, Editor-in-Chief, Express
  • Paul Clarkson, Managing Editor, The Sun
  • Bishop of Chelmsford, Lords Communications Committee
  • Professor Paul Baker, linguistics expert who validated the methodology used
  • Shahin Sadafi, Grenfell United

In attendance were a range of senior stakeholders including the Managing Editor of the Daily Mail, Alex Bannister and the Managing Editor of the Mail on Sunday, John Wellington.

Gary Jones, Editor-in-Chief of the Express acknowledged the presence of Islamophobia in the press, and praised the Centre for Media Monitoring for its report, as a way of holding media to account. “We need to be monitored,” he said, whilst also noting that the Muslim Council of Britain was the first group he met with, after becoming Editor-in-Chief.

Professor Paul Baker praised the report as, “impressive” because “they’re doing what we can’t”, highlighting also that the “analysis is both detailed and large-scale. And importantly, they know how to do this”.

The study of print and broadcast reports reveals a serious problem in the way that British media reports about Islam and Muslims. Examining over 10,000 articles and clips referring to Muslims and Islam in the period of Q4 2018, the key findings:

  • 59 per cent of all articles associated Muslims with negative behaviour
  • 37 per cent of articles in right-leaning and religious publications were categorised with the most negative rating of “very biased”
  • Over a third of all articles misrepresented or generalised about Muslims
  • Terrorism was the most common theme

The study also looked at TV and whilst issues of accuracy and bias were found to be considerably better than the press, notable conclusions include:

  • 43 per cent of all broadcast clips associated Muslims with negative behaviour
  • Regional coverage was significantly more supportive than national coverage
  • The platforming of the far-right on a number of debate programmes has allowed the propagation of false stereotypes about Islam and Muslims

The Secretary General of the MCB, Harun Khan, said: “The Centre for Media Monitoring is a huge step forward for Muslim communities, who have consistently raised concerns about the way that the media’s reporting on Muslims and Islam have affected people on the ground. We hope that this positive, constructive and evidence-based approach will make the change that we all feel is long overdue.”

The founder for the CfMM and Head of Public Affairs for the MCB, Miqdaad Versi, added: “This has been a journey – we started by focussing on inaccuracies, but the real impact is from poor journalism and bias, and the work at the Centre for Media Monitoring will bring the way issues are reported to the fore, and propose ways to make things better. Through engagement, we hope to make a real difference.”

The Director for CfMM, Rizwana Hamid, highlighted the goals of the newly formed team: “There is no doubt about the seriousness of Islamophobia within sections of British media. Even amongst the public, 58 per cent believe the media is to blame for Islamophobia. The status quo has to change. Our goal is for there to be more responsible reporting through constructive dialogue with decision makers. A robust evidence based methodology highlighting issues of deliberate misrepresentation and unconscious bias can only help increase transparency and accountability.”

* Read State of Media Reporting on Islam and Muslims here

* Muslim Council of Britain https://mcb.org.uk/

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