A major Idasa report, “Press Coverage of Cross Border Migration to
South Africa Since 2000”, says the country’s newspapers and news wire
services have played a major role in inflaming xenophobic sentiment, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

Drawing on earlier research, the 2005 study noted that less than 10% of South Africans had a “great deal” of contact with foreign Africans — and that, therefore, “anti-immigration sentiment in the region is not primarily a result of (personal experience) with foreigners but rather the product of (mis)information from secondary sources, including the media”.

In a study of 950 press reports on immigration, the survey found:

# More than half the articles used at least one negative reference ( job stealers, criminals, illegals …). This cumulative effect of rhetoric is perhaps the most revealing statistic of all;

# 17% used a “negative metaphor” to describe the migration, eg. floods, waves or hordes;

# 22% associated migrants with crime;

20% referred to migrants as illegals

# “The long discredited figure of nine million illegal immigrants living in South Africa … continues to be reproduced in the press”;

“A large amount of press coverage remains anti-immigration and non-analytical”;

# Of the articles that used the term “job stealers”, the SA Press Association (Sapa) was by far the worst offender, making up 38%; and

# The problem was inflamed by “the growth of a tabloid press in SA . . . which latch on to reactionary and sensational issues and attitudes”.

Click here to read the full report, posted on the Sunday Times website.