New media guidelines designed to tackle Islamophobia
New media guidelines for reporting on Muslims and Islam have been published in Scotland in what is thought to be a world first.
The document has been produced by the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Tackling Islamophobia in conjunction with Newcastle University and the National Union of Journalists.
It is hoped the guidelines – designed to improve the portrayal, accuracy, representation and terminology used about Islam and Muslims – will become a regularly used tool for reporters, editors, broadcasters, columnists and other media professionals.
Research for the project involved focus groups with young Muslims, Muslim women, individuals and organisations who belong to the CPG, non-Muslims, and senior journalists from print and broadcast media.
Participants said ‘headlines hurt’ and questioned why there aren’t more positive stories about Muslims in the media. The report also found that terminology is often used without much regard for accuracy – such as the terms ‘hijab’ and ‘burka’ being used interchangeably - and articles sometimes reference an individual's Muslim faith when it isn’t clear why it is relevant to the story.
The report has been authored by Uzma Mir, a former BBC Scotland executive producer, and Peter Hopkins, professor of social geography at Newcastle University.
A two-page summary of the guidelines for journalists has also been produced and will be shared with newspapers and media organisations throughout Scotland.
Anas Sarwar MSP, chair of the CPG on tackling Islamophobia, said: “Rightly or wrongly, people blame politicians and the media for rising divisions in society.
“The CPG set out to address these issues, and I would like to thank all the journalists and editors for their positive engagement with this ground-breaking initiative.
“These guidelines can demonstrate leadership from Scotland to the rest of the UK and other parts of the world.
“I hope this becomes a regularly used tool and acts as a quick guide for the media. By coming together to challenge all forms of prejudice we can build the tolerant and inclusive society we aspire to be. This is a fight for all of us.”
Report co-author Mir said: “The media has significant power in shaping how Islam and Muslims are represented and therefore the extent to which Muslims experience everyday racism and Islamophobia.
“In most polls and from our own work with focus groups, many Muslims felt that that there was an issue with Islamophobia and that the media played a major part in its rise.
“We hope these guidelines encourage further change and are a useful tool for those working in different roles and in diverse forms of media in Scotland.”