Last week it was National Hate Crime Awareness Week, an event that is increasingly relevant in today’s society; the last year has seen an unrecognisable upsurge in open bigotry and subsequent hate crime in the UK evidencing a resurgence of racism on a scale many would not have viewed as possible in 2017. Reports of hate crime have gone up an unprecedented amount in aftermath of the Brexit vote and the recent spate of terrorist attacks in both London and Manchester. The attacks in Manchester and London saw a five fold increase in hate crime, these crimes had a specifically anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The role of the media in the rise of hate crime in the UK is unequivocal. For too long now the right-wing tabloid press in the UK has vilified minorities and vulnerable groups. This vilification is by no means a new phenomenon and has long existed in British Media. Experts have been warning for some time that antagonistic media coverage has been fuelling an increase in anti-Muslim and Islamophobic hate speech and crime.
In the past years, there have been several circumstances where the British media have subject groups and individuals through the ‘other’ to an unparalleled torrent of abuse. The recent and continuing refugee crisis, gave rise to an extreme rhetoric of hate. Evidence of this is best capsulated, in The Sun article, that compared African migrants to cockroaches, this article triggered a response from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, made a powerful statement about the incitement of hatred in UK newspapers, calling out in particular the tabloids for their sustained attack on refugees and migrants. Al Hussein stated that “History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonizing foreigners and minorities, and it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used in a variety of countries, simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers.” This statement succinctly summarises the dangers and how truly detestable such behaviour is particularly give the motives.
Further, the repulsive anti-immigration rhetoric that formed parts of the Leave campaign and the successive Brexit vote, which was supported by the fore mentioned newspapers, that were complicit in the hate speech of the refugee crisis. A post-Brexit climate has created a society in which hate crime has become a regular reality for far too many.
As mentioned earlier the recent increase in terrorist attacks, has sparked a surge in Islamophobic hate crime. After the Manchester arena attacks there was a 500% surge in Islamophobic attacks. A study conducted at the University of Cambridge, found that the ‘reporting by the mainstream media about Muslim communities is contributing to an atmosphere of rising hostility towards Muslims in Britain’. These trends exist across all forms of media not just newspapers; the British media is complicit in fuelling and legitimising hate crime. Figures released by the Home Office on Tuesday (17th of October 2017) show that between 2015/16 and 2016/17 the number of race hate crime increased by 27% and over the same period religious hate crime increased by 35%.
These trends are truly worrying. If such abhorrent and unjustifiable behaviour goes unchallenged we must fear living in a society where people and in particular women are driven into their homes fearful of going outside, in case they are subject to racially and/or religiously charged hate crime and speech, this is already happening. That this is happening in 2017 is incomprehensible. There is no doubt that the there is a major issue regarding the under reporting, many hate crimes go unreported, for numerous reasons often owing to fears of, and mistrust in the police. In order to gain a true picture of the reality and impact of hate crime, we must work closely with the victims of hate crime, something the JAN Trust has been doing since 2008 with its ‘Say No To Hate Crime’ campaign.
A solution to the evident and persistent incitement of hatred by the British Media, that has created and fuelled hate speech and crime for too long now, must be implemented. It is time now for media and regulatory bodies, including IPSO and Ofcom, to take significant steps to curb the anti-foreign and anti muslim rhetoric that plagues factions of the media.