There has been a reduction in news and headlines on migration in the Italian media in 2020, while on a lexical level the derogatory and legally incorrect term "illegal" has made a return. That's according to the 8th annual report on media and migration in Italy, "News in Transit", by the Carta Association of Rome.
News on migration and migrants has dropped in the year of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the 8th annual report on media and migration in Italy, titled "News in Transit". The report was published on December 15 by the Carta Association of Rome together with the Pavia Observatory.
The publication said there were 834 news stories in the first 10 months of the year on the front pages of six Italian dailies that were analysed, revealing a decrease of 34% compared to the same period in 2019.
Daily visibility of the migratory phenomenon alternated between phases of attention on the front pages and phases of absence, due to the health emergency.
During 2020, attention to the topic was intermittent, with higher coverage during the summer months of July, August, and September, and lower coverage during the months of the health emergency.
Focus on migratory flows, return of term 'illegal'
The report shows that in 53% of cases, front-page headlines focused on migratory flows. In other words, arrivals by sea were what made front-page headlines in Italian dailies.
In 2020, there was a significant decrease in alarmist tones in the press: 8% of articles had alarmist tones, the lowest figure since 2015, the report said.
The percentage of reassuring articles was contained, at 2%.
The categories most susceptible to alarmist tones were terrorism (62%) and COVID-19 (41%).
From a lexical point of view, the term "illegal," which is derogatory and legally incorrect, was still broadly used in newspaper headlines.
Despite the drop in terms of headlines in the press in recent years, the trend has reversed since 2017, totaling 1.5% of headlines in the 10 months of 2020, the highest figure in the past five years.
A new phenomenon that appeared in some press headlines in 2020 was the stigmatization of migrants as a vehicle for COVID-19 contagion.
A total of 13% of press headlines on migrants were within the framework of the health alarm due to the COVID-19 emergency. While the headlines of some newspapers highlighted the urgency of solidarity towards the most fragile categories, other headlines were critical.
Migration in prime-time news broadcasts
In 2020, following the COVID-19 health emergency, visibility of the migratory phenomenon experienced a significant decrease on prime-time news broadcasts compared to previous years.
There were 2,012 news items in the first 10 months of 2020, half that of the past two years (4,058 in 2018 and 4,002 in 2019).
Focus on the topic was intermittent, in contrast to previous years. It was present in the first two months of the year, and then came back in the summer months, although in a lesser form than in previous years. The first topic overall was that of "migratory flows" (37%), followed by "society and culture" (27%) and "criminality and security" (15%).
In news-organization Facebook posts referring to migration and COVID-19, sharing of hard-news content was more prevalent. This content included topics such as positive cases of COVID-19 among arriving migrants or those in reception centers, migrant escapes and citizen protests, politicians' statements on the Covid-migrant emergency, taking up positions and proposing institutional solutions.
The presence of an alarmist and emergency language in some newspapers contributed to creating a climate of threat and fear. The depersonalization of migrants, described as a plural entity and talked about as if merchandise to move and locate, dehumanises the narration, the report concluded.