Compare the coverage of refugees in German and British tabloids pic.twitter.com/wYua7kT8tl
— Gergely Polner (@eurocrat) August 29, 2015
It's a difference that could hardly be more striking: Germany expects an influx of as many as 800,000 refugees this year alone, but its government is nevertheless trying to make it easier for Syrians to reach the country. Meanwhile, Britain is increasingly isolating itself.
In both countries, there are many who oppose the influx: Up to 40 percent of all Germans don't want to take in more refugees.
Nevertheless, nearly all German media outlets -- even those known as staunchly conservative -- have embraced a pro-refugee stance. Even BILD, the country's best-selling tabloid paper, known for its controversial and conservative orientation, published a cover on Saturday featuring two young refugees with the headline: "We help."
In Britain, BILD's equivalent, the Daily Express, warned its readers: "Migrants swarm to Britain." Earlier, the competing Daily Mail tabloid commented: "We kept out Hitler... Why can't our feeble leaders stop a few thousand exhausted migrants?" And in a column published by the Sun newspaper, columnist Katie Hopkins offered a solution months ago: "Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop migrants."
On Twitter, several commentators argued that British journalists should learn from their German counterparts. "When #Bild is more socially liberal than the British press something has gone very wrong with Britain," wrote Frank Roberts on Sunday. Others expressed hope that some British journalists would reconsider their coverage.
Imagine if British tabloids were like German tabloids when it came to refugees... Bild Zeitung:"Why we must all help" http://t.co/hc0jYyi9Cj
— Katrine Marçal (@katrinemarcal) August 29, 2015
Nearly all major German TV stations are preparing special newscasts or mono-thematic programs to discuss prejudices against refugees. When RTL, a TV channel that draws a disproportionate number of young viewers, announced that it would focus on refugees in all of its programs on Monday, some of the feedback was negative. "I'm fed up with it," some commentators wrote on the channel's Facebook page, referring to the continuing coverage of the topic in evening newscasts.
But most German journalists appear to be ignoring their critics. The violent protests and burning reception centers have alarmed journalists and potentially made them more aware of their own role in provoking opposition to the influx of refugees.
On Facebook, RTL posted the following statement: "Your neighbor is a Jew, Your car is Japanese, your pizza is Italian, your democracy is Greek, your coffee is Brazilian, (...) and your neighbor is simply foreign?" The post was shared more than 10,000 times on Monday and reflected a sentiment of many who complain that those opposed to refugees have never actually met and talked to them. The channel also posted numerous short videos featuring its anchormen and anchorwomen who made emotional pleas to support refugees. "There is so much unjustified fear, and there are so many rumors," Maik Meuser, the anchor of the channel's nightly newscast said in a video.
Public TV station ARD has taken a similar approach: Although the network's senior news director Kai Gniffke denied in a recent blog post that the channel had favored pro-refugee opinions, he acknowledged that the network was indeed taking a stance. "It's our task to report, to be impartial and unbiased... However, we put a special emphasis on those people, initiatives and organizations that work on finding constructive solutions," he wrote.
Nevertheless, some critics have questioned whether tabloids like BILD should be praised for their efforts. Germany has recently seen a wave of attacks on asylum reception centers, and some argue that the violence has its origins in news reporting that had portrayed refugees as potential threats for decades. "It's much more typical for (BILD) to have xenophobic headlines," Twitter user Michael Hartmann wrote. The paper has fiercely refuted such arguments.
@eurocrat Usually BILD is almost as bad as British tabloids, though. It's much more typical for them to have xenophobic headlines.
— Michael Hartmann (@TheDreamingGoat) August 30, 2015
BILD is now focusing on the countries that are isolating themselves from the growing tide of migrants. "Europe's shirkers," the paper's page two read, referring to Slovakia, France, Italy, Latvia -- but above all, Britain.
— David Charter (@DavidCharter) August 31, 2015