News / Report calls for better media representation of faith communities

Report calls for better media representation of faith communities


The Faith & Belief Forum

30 / 01 / 20

A new report by the Faith & Belief Forum and the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck calls on media organisations to provide more opportunities for religious groups to represent themselves.

The briefing paper, ‘Media, Faith and Belonging’, draws on insights from a roundtable event at Birkbeck which brought together academics, policy experts and local organisations. The report finds that inaccurate, sensationalised and simplistic media coverage reinforces negative stereotypes of religious groups, increasing the potential for suspicion, fear and communal violence. Media coverage of religion has an impact on hate crime, with spikes in hate crime often accompanying negative media stories about religious groups.

The report offers several recommendations to address these issues. Some key findings are:

  • The report recommends that journalists and editors improve their religious literacy and engagement with local faith groups to understand how religion works in practice.
  • It calls on newsrooms to provide better access to religious and ethnic minority journalists, and more spaces for local faith and belief groups to represent themselves.
  • It calls for more initiatives which mentor and encourage young journalists from different faith and belief backgrounds.
  • The report recommends that organisations train more local faith/belief groups and individuals to share their own stories and understand how the media works.
  • It also recommends that government regulators improve their regulation and enforcement for media companies which regularly print false stories.

The report highlights how journalists, academics, community organisations and religious groups are working to address the issues in three ways: by challenging inaccurate stories, telling their own stories and working together to make a shared story. In this space, social media has created new opportunities to tell complex stories to wider audiences.

The report authors say: “When the media reinforces a message that certain people do not belong, this stokes suspicion and encourages division between people of different faiths and beliefs. Working together, we can ensure that our media more accurately reflects the reality of the everyday lives of religious people, challenges negative and inaccurate stereotypes, promotes curiosity and builds empathy and connection.”

‘Media, Faith and Belonging’ is the third and final in a series of reports supported by a grant from Dangoor Education which look at different aspects of belief and belonging. The full report can be downloaded from the Faith & Belief Forum’s website.

Download the report: https://faithbeliefforum.org/report

For more information:

Email: philip@faithbeliefforum.org
Phone: 0207 482 9535


Notes for editors

‘Media, Faith and Belonging’ was written by Jonathan D Smith, Lenita Törning, Ben Gidley and Ruth Sheldon, in a collaboration between the Faith & Belief Forum and the Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London. The report draws on insights from a roundtable discussion with the same title. It is one of three such roundtables hosted by the Faith & Belief Forum and the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck.

Presenters at the roundtable and respondents who are mentioned in the paper include:

  • Abby Day, Professor of Race, Faith and Culture, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Alex Fenton, Director of Public Affairs to Rabbi Janner-Klausner, Reform Judaism
  • Anwar Akhtar, Founder and Director, The Samosa
  • Emily Kasriel, Head of Editorial Partnerships and Special Projects, BBC World Service Group
  • Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, Senior Lecturer in Sikh Studies, University of Birmingham
  • Jasveer Singh and Sukhvinder Singh, Sikh Press Association
  • Keith Kahn-Harris, Senior Lecturer, Leo Baeck College
  • Remona Aly, Journalist and Commentator

The Faith & Belief Forum has worked for over 20 years to build good relations between people of all faiths and beliefs, and to create a society where difference is celebrated. The organization creates spaces in schools, universities, workplaces and the wider community where people can engage with questions of belief and identity and meet people different from themselves. For more information, see https://faithbeliefforum.org

The Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London (BDPS) was founded in 2000 and aims to investigate a wide range of contemporary social, political and personal concerns. The Department is unique in its interdisciplinary focus and draws together academics and clinicians from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds to think together about the relation between social and psychic life. For more information, see http://www.bbk.ac.uk/psychosocial/about-us.

Briefings on Faith, Belief and Belonging are supported by a grant from Dangoor Education (http://dangooreducation.com).

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