Global Issues & Global News: How Vested Interests Won the Refugee Debate

In Australian (and global) media, the refugee issue is represented as a political one rather than a social one, which causes us as responders to the media to envision political parties, the
Print Media Re: Asylum Seekers

potential tax burden and potential changes to the economy (among others), often without stopping to consider the humanitarian factors. There are thousands of sick, starving and scared men, women and children who need our help, yet tis is not often covered in global news media.

In Global Media Apocalypse (2013), Lewis suggests that global media is infiltrating the minds of the developed-world audience, “limiting compassion” and “directing public opinion on race and exclusionism”. The greater media is preventing us from seeing the refugee issue from a humanitarian point of view through forging “a deep suspicion across the mediasphere”.

Lewis concludes that “the widespread ignorance” of human suffering can only be rectified through “improved political debate, government leadership and media commitment to more informed public discussion”; in essence, an extension of the public sphere and encouragement for aid.

The following news clip outlines the refugee situation in Australia and Indonesia (2013):

You’ll notice it has a strong focus on the politics of and between Indonesia and Australia, and consequently has very little to say about the humanitarian side, or indeed the asylum seekers themselves. Indonesia’s outrage at Australia turning back the boats was not motivated by Australia turning away people in need, but the fact that they were being sent to Indonesian soil. The media is completely missing the point of helping asylum seekers.

Paul Power
Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia

“When you analyse the media agenda on refugee policy, you see that, overwhelmingly, the media agenda follows the political agenda”

So what is the political agenda on refugees in Australia, you may ask. The same old “stop the boats” mentality has been with leading politicians since the Howard Government’s reign. Rather than focusing on helping these people, we concentrate on sending them away. After all, if they’re not on our soil, they’re not our problem – right?

Although it has satirical intentions, the above film clip is an accurate representation of the Australian Government’s mentality in ‘dealing with’ the refugee situation.

It is safe to say that the global media is often guilty of putting a political (or otherwise) spin on humanitarian or social issues. We as an audience need to remember that under the politicians, scientists, news crews and cameras, refugees are human beings, who suffer from factors outside of their control. It should be the responsibility of the global media to represent this issue more accurately and with more empathy.

Do any of you identify as refugees? Did you, or your families, escape terror and flee to Australia (or another country) by boat? I’m going to assume the majority answer would be ‘no’.  The only taste we, as a western audience, usually get of these issues comes from the global media.

A refugee camp
A refugee camp

Therefore the media needs to remove vested interests from its investigation and representation of global issues in order expose and correct them more effectively and efficiently in society.


Lewis, J 2013, Global Media Apocalypse: Pleasure, Violence and Cultural Imaginings of Doom, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY, United States.

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