Language and Immigration in the media: Do we need a glossary of appropriate words?
Italian journalist Giorgio Zanchini spoke out against language discrimination and hate speech in articles about immigration in Italy’s press at today’s conference session. He said immigration has been a recent phenomenon in Italy. It went up from 0.5 to 3million in the last 6 years.
However, immigration is never reported in a neutral way and always seen in a political context. Zanchini sees language as a central problem, saying that headlines containing swear words and other offensive and aggressive phrases are used on TV.
“We’ve had superficial, lazy and sometimes violent ways of describing immigration in the press.”
Zanchini proposes a glossary with appropriate words and expressions that can be used as there is not much awareness of which words are offensive and which aren’t. Even if journalists write articles showing attention to objectivity and language, editors often write offensive headlines.
Italy does have a self-regulation system for the media in which professional journalists have to take an exam and be part of a guild and can also be sanctioned. However, not all people who write for papers are part of the guild and therefore they can’t be sanctioned. Giorgio Zanchini also admits that the question of freedom of expression when it comes to language is difficult.
Social media is not helping to keep the balance because the Italian audience is divided into a right-wing and left wing group and there is not much discussion between these groups. The national discussion about this social issue is lacking, according to Zanchini.
Fabricated stories are another problem. In one case, a newspaper accused two Roma men of raping an Italian girl but the story turned out to be wrong – the attackers were Italian. In another instance a campaign was launched in the press against Albanians after an Italian girl and her boyfriend killed her mother but claimed Albanians committed the crime.