VIDEO: Framing migration during the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa: a 12-month media monitoring project
At the International Journal of Press/Politics Virtual Conference (13-16 September 2021), maHp/African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS, Wits University) postdoctoral fellow Thea de Gruchy presented a paper (co-authored with Thulie Zikhali, Jo Vearey and Johanna Hanefeld) titled: ‘Framing migration during the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa: a 12-month media monitoring project’. The virtual conference brought together scholars conducting internationally-oriented or comparative research on the intersection between news media and politics around the world.
Catch her video presentation below (see from 28:45 to 52:35):
Globally, the Chinese origin of Covid-19, the relationship between human mobility and the spread of the virus, and the pressure that the pandemic has put on communities has seen increased incidents of xenophobia. South Africa, which has a long history of xenophobia, has not escaped this trend as community and political leaders face pressure due to the pandemic. However, unlike research on the framing of migrants historically and elsewhere during the pandemic, which finds that the media frames migrants in terms of (un)deservingness and exacerbates xenophobic tensions, reporting on South Africa reflects different concerns. This paper discusses findings from a 12-month study into the ways in which migrant and mobile populations were written about and represented in news articles as the pandemic developed during 2020. A news aggregator – Meltwater – was used to scrape the internet for articles published globally in 2020 that met a search with key terms migration, Covid-19, and South Africa. A total of 12 068 articles were identified and descriptively analyzed. Drawing on previous approaches to media analysis, a framing analysis was then undertaken of 560 articles, 10% of the research results once republished articles were accounted for. Findings point to clear patterns in publication, including the consistent publication of stories sympathetic to migrants during the pandemic. In addition, the framing analysis shows how mobility is linked to the spread of Covid-19, justifying calls for travel restrictions, and how the South African state is understood as simultaneously powerful and powerless in its response to Covid-19. The paper reflects on the opportunities and limitations of news aggregators for research and the ways in which news media differs from social media with regards to the portrayal of migrants and migration, and what the implications of this might be for effectively engaging with xenophobia in South Africa.
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