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Cartoon: British media in search of humanity

‘The choice to chase the dinghies live on air reduces it to a spectacle.’

Cartoon: "British media fail in search for humanity" shows journalists accosting migrants in a boat. Gathara/TNH

UK TV news crews have been accused of insensitive and misguided coverage of migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats.

MPs, analysts, and activists have said the coverage was dehumanising, reckless, and feeds into an alarmist narrative that is not justified. 

Both Sky TV and BBC have chartered boats to search for and intercept small dinghies, and shout questions and film them, in some cases live. 

In one scene, a reporter filmed passengers scooping out water from their overloaded inflatable. In another, the reporter’s chartered vessel pulls up close to a smaller boat, causing it to rock in their wake. The passengers are heard saying, “no camera”

Glenda Cooper, an academic at London’s City University who has studied UK media coverage of refugees, said that while the commentary of the journalists may have been fair and reasonable, “the choice to chase the dinghies live on air reduces it to a spectacle.”

Cooper told The New Humanitarian that the issue was legitimately newsworthy, and that the journalists made clear that the authorities had been alerted to the potential danger facing those in the boats. But Cooper also said that the visuals overwhelmed the reporters' attempts to explain a complex subject and analyse politicians' rhetoric, resulting instead in “what appeared to be a bizarre scrum for the first interview from an overcrowded dinghy”.

Sky TV insisted that its coverage was “responsible and human”, and said that they would monitor boats in case they got into distress. The BBC told the Guardian: “Channel crossings is a topic of huge importance and we always endeavour to cover the story sensitively.”

The image above is a take commissioned by TNH from Nairobi-based cartoonist Gathara.

– Ben Parker

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