Despite recognising the right of asylum and being a signatory of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Australia has some of the strictest regulations when it comes to asylum seekers and their attempts to enter Australia. For decades now, the subject of asylum seekers has been an extremely contentious one in this country, with the media frequently at the forefront of this never-ending debate. The media’s portrayal of asylum seekers through their choice of reporting and commentary has the ability to shape the thinking of the nation in regards to this divisive issue. The representation of asylum seekers and their efforts to seek refuge in Australia are reported differently domestically and abroad, as these analyses below demonstrate.
Courier Mail – Andrew Bolt Says Refugee Lobby Motivated by Insane Hatred Of Tony Abbott
In this piece, right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt defends the government’s decision to forcibly return 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers in July this year. Bolt appears to consciously choose inflammatory diction in his writing, such as calling asylum seekers “boat people” – a phrase which has been largely abandoned by most media outlets due to its negative and backwards connotations. Bolt also presents the audience with rhetorical questions – “So were [the Sri Lankans] ‘refugees’? Were they truly the ‘persecuted’…?” By putting the words refugees and persecuted into quotation marks, Bolt presents sarcasm in his writing, as though he has answered his own rhetorical question before it has even been asked.
Finally, he states that the Sri Lankan’s “…presumably lived in the safety of the established refugee camps.” This bold presumptuousness perfectly demonstrates Bolt’s arrogant reporting on the issue – he doesn’t need proof or facts to back up his statements, he can just put the word “presumably” and have an audience believe him wholeheartedly.
Julie Bishop Interview on BBC Radio 4
In this radio interview between Julie Bishop and BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphreys, Humphreys is clearly antagonistic towards Bishop and Australia’s methods of dealing with asylum seekers. While Bishop is explaining the government’s reasoning behind offshore processing, Humphreys interjects, asking, “You could still treat them humanely, couldn’t you?” He then later interrupts again “What, are they holiday camps, are they?” This further supports the notion that his reporting is meant to be aggressive and attempts to make Bishop falter.
He then goes on to use very graphic and confronting imagery in describing the asylum seeker camps, calling them “breeding grounds for rape, rioting, malaria, and mental illness that bear the look and feel of concentration camps”, that are “effectively… a Guantanamo Bay”. This strong commentary demonstrates Humphreys’ firm opposition to the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers.
SMH -India was the ‘obvious place’ to send 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers: Immigration
The reporting style here appears to be moderately impartial, as it gives equal space within the article to both opponents of the government’s approach including Hugh de Krester from the Human Rights Law Centre, and those from the government itself, such as quotations from Scott Morison defending the government’s decision – “The Australian government always seeks to ensure that its international obligations are met and we do that on each occasion and we don’t refoul people and we never have and we certainly haven’t done that as a government.”
The photographs chosen to accompany the article show the Sri Lankan asylum seekers looking anxiously over their shoulders at the airport at Cocos Island in July. This photo elicits a feeling of compassion from those viewing the photograph. It could be said that this sways the reporting style away from impartial and towards a sympathy with the asylum seekers.
Nauru Asylum Seekers Sew Lips Shut In Protest Over Cambodia Transfer
By specifically and repeatedly referencing the fact that children are involved in this extreme form of protest, the author of this article is aiming to show the desperate lengths that these asylum seekers are forced to go to in order to protest about plans to move them to Cambodia, after they had already spent more than a year in detention. The accompanying photograph, with all but the graphic image of the a man with his lips stitched shut blurred, shocks with reader into realising the reality of the situation.
The inclusion of a quote by Scott Morrison saying that the government had expected “a bit of reaction” to the news that people on Nauru wouldn’t be able to come to Australia, is commentary on the government’s unperturbed nature in regards to asylum seekers and their plight.
UN to Give Evidence in Australian Asylum Seeker Test Case
The reporting style in this article is very critical of Australia and their handling of asylum seekers, specifically the legality of the management of the 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers. By choosing to write that the intervention of the UN high Commission for Refugees in the matter ”reflected the level of international concern over Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers on the high seas”, this article demonstrates a disapproval of the nation’s actions towards asylum seekers. The article also has a photograph of Tony Abbott, mid sentence with a dumbfounded expression on his face. This attempts to portray Tony Abbott, and by extension – Australia, as idiotic and imperceptive.
Australia Faces Asylum Court Challenges
This BBC article examines the federal court hearing over the case of a baby born in Brisbane to asylum seeker parents, as well as the case of the 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers. This article’s reporting style is highly informative, and does not appear to possess any large amount of bias. The informative nature of the article is demonstrated through the dot point summaries of “Australia and asylum”. The inclusion of these summaries show a conscious targeting of overseas audiences who would most likely be unaware of Australia’s asylum seeker policies or history etc. The inclusion of an explanation of the Rohingya people and their history also sets the article as an authority on the issue.
Australia Hands Asylum Seekers Back to Sri Lanka
India’s Business Standard article uses strong language in reference to claims by human rights group, stating “Tamils could face torture, rape and long-term detention if they were returned.” By emphasising the awful, graphic conditions with which the Sri Lankan refugees may be met, the article reports from a sympathetic angle. Other language used in the article also supports this notion, such as claims that Australia was “returning [asylum seekers] involuntarily to a country in which they had a well-founded fear of persecution.” By saying that their fears were “well-founded”, the article demonises Australia, by making the nation appear as iron-fisted and without empathy or mercy.
Australia’s Refugee Problem
The opening paragraph of this article immediately sets the scene for the type of commentary used throughout. Australia is said to be pursuing “draconian measures to deter people without visas from entering the country by boat.” This harsh, strong language shows that the article is extremely critical of Australia’s action in regards to asylum seekers who arrive by boat. As the New York Times is a well known, well respected publication, the views expressed in the article are very likely to be read be people from all around the world, and therefore any condemnation of Australia would likely be more impactful than that of smaller international media outlets.
Australia Returns Asylum Seekers to Sri Lanka
The photo accompanying this article shows Tamil refugees looking forlorn, dispirited, and malnourished. This photo is displayed at the top of the article, therefore setting the tone of the rest of the article as compassionate towards the asylum seekers’ situation. The article’s choice to describe the history of the ethnic Tamils, as having “survived a lengthy civil war between government troops and the now-defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels” shows that they are reporting from an educated perspective, and that their support for the Tamil asylum seekers is well informed. Al Jazeera also has a very broad and wide reaching audience, which means that their opinion holds a lot of weight in many different countries. Therefore, what they publish about Australia and their treatment of asylum seekers will influence many others.
Australia Facing International Condemnation After Turning Around Sri Lankan’s at Sea
The Independent’s article raises many points that have been mentioned previously in regards to the 157 Tamil asylum seekers. It relies heavily on quotes from the UN High Commission for Refugees, who it reports expressed “profound concern” over Australia’s at sea processing of asylum seekers. It also alleges that the asylum seekers will face “rigorous imprisonment” in Sri Lanka; though do not give a source for this. This makes the legitimacy and trustworthiness of the fact itself, and possibly and the remainder of the article questionable.
It is also interesting to note, that while the article itself is reporting from a centre-left position, the comments at the bottom of the article are almost all right wing, or at least aggressively anti-asylum seekers.