SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

Media Portrayal of Immigration in the South African Media

Published by: The Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa (SIHMA)

The issue of media representation of immigrants is particularly pertinent today, given the current anti-immigrant sentiment in parts of Europe and the United States. In South Africa, negative attitudes towards foreigners are common and media discursive descriptions of immigrants as illegal, undocumented or a dangerous threat is typical. This study utilises quantitative tools of analysis to explore the media coverage of immigration adopting the RASIM Corpus Linguistics (CL) approach. The rubric – REFUGEE, ASYLUM-SEEKER, IMMIGRANT, MIGRANT is adjusted to RASFIM – REFUGEE, ASYLUM-SEEKER, FOREIGNER, IMMIGRANT, MIGRANT – to more appropriately account for the the specific nuances of representations of immigrants in the South African media. The data, comprising of over 5,000 relevant media articles, was drawn in annual tranches for the period 2011-2015. Our findings identify significant patterns that are consistent with extant literature on media constructions of foreigners as “illegal immigrants.” Other findings relating to “shop” and “trade” references offer evidence of the complex and at times contradictory nature of public discourses on immigration. Media narratives go as far as to suggest that foreign- owned shops are fronts to conceal “drug-dealing” and other “illicit activities.”

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