25 Dec 2021

New Zealand media coverage on Muslims mostly use negative language - study

10:55 am on 25 December 2021

Recent New Zealand media stories involving Muslims mostly used negative language, a researcher from University of Canterbury has found.

Muslim woman working/writing on laptop/typing.

(File image) Photo: 123RF

The Muslim community was the focus of intense media coverage after the 15 March terror attack, including the positive response from non-Muslims wanting to reach out and offer support to those directly affected.

But data science senior lecturer Giulio Dalla Riva said an algorithm used to analyse recent articles found most involved negative words such as sad, angry, upset and fearful.

"The news veers towards the sad stories rather than reporting everything that happens. It is like a painter not having all the colours available."

By way of comparison, he said stories involving the Christian community were quite different.

"Stories about the Christian communities on average are neutral; there are some sad stories and some positive stories, a nice and wide palette of emotions."

While he was keen not to speak on behalf of Muslims, he did think it was important that media reflected the full diversity of stories involving them, not just the sad ones.

He also found that after three months of widespread coverage, the frequency of stories about Muslims fell away to levels seen before the terror attacks.

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