The Media

‘The squeaky wheel gets the oil’

The media will always give preference to a story that will draw attention and most likely increase ratings. That is why we see so much negative stories about Muslims and Islam. It is rare to see positive stories as they are just not as engaging. The media will usually sensationalise the story so that it is even more attractive to the viewer, listener or reader. Unfortunately, the very small minority of Muslims tend to get the vast majority of coverage and this is inadvertantly an issue for the Muslim community.

The media know that Islam sells and is one of the highest rating subjects in the print, radio and television media. Therefore, the media tend to sensationalise stories and run with attention grabbing headlines and controversial images. Islam to the average Australian is an alien concept and associated with difference, foreignness and unusualness. Therefore it tends to raise interest in the public.

Also, there are some people who have their own agenda or their own interpretation of an Islamic teaching and try to get their message out through the media. If it is violent, backward or aggressive, then the media will broadcast it. In the modern age the media is now akin to infotainment and the shock factor plays an important part of which stories are chosen to be included in the news and current affairs.

Keeping in mind that within Islam itself, there are different factions, only a small faction has hjacked the rest of the majority viewpoint. Often the media publicise this minority view and it is held up as the norm. These minority views enjoy the free publicity and usually play up to the media as the anti-hero who sees the west as the enemy of Islam.

What is really important is that the mainstream also engage and get their message out. This is extremely difficult but not impossble. Instread of ridiculing Islam and Muslims, we need sensible spokespeople who can articulate a strong message that does ot compromise anything within their faith but at the same time reinforces Australian values and promotes understanding, breaks down misconceptions and builds positive relationships.

There are also sound mechanisms in place within the media to address issues about inaccurate or unfair reporting in the media. There are avenues of complaint for breaches of the media Code of Ethics and practice. In the radio and television industry there is the Australian Communications and Media Authority and for print news there is the Australian Press Council.


The impact of 911 was unprecedented and brought Islam into the spotlight. The affects on Muslims living in the west was quite dramatic immediately following the events, which ranged from vandalism of places of worship and verabal and physical attacks on people in public places.

Even though, we still hear about politicians and political parties in western countries, particularly in Europe, demonising Islam and Muslims, advocating for a restriction on migration and associating Muslims with high crime and terrorism, in Australia this is much less strident.

Today, Islam is probably the most misunderstood religion in the world and there is a consistent message being highlighted in the media. However, only in the last few years in Australia, there has been a subtle shift away from the negative stereotyping and sensationalising of stories and more accurate and fair reporting of Muslim related stories. With proactive measures taken by Muslims, to engage with the media, to do media training and to give an alternative viewpoint, the results have been slow but fruitful.