This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of March, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 1 and 18 March 2020
Media outlet: La Libre and Le Vif, mainstream French-language news outlets
Headlines: “Turkey opens its borders: Greece announces that it has blocked the entry of 10,000 migrants in 24 hours” and “New overnight incidents at the Greek-Turkish border”
Description of the anti-migrant content: When reporting about the tensions at the Turkey-Greece border at the beginning of March, Belgian news outlets La Libre and Le Vif used inaccurate and fear-mongering photos to accompany the articles. While the articles focus on clashes involving police repression at the border, the two chosen photos portray migrants as dangerous rioters. Specifically, the image in La Libre depicts a combat zone scenario with hooded migrants, shouting and setting fire to barricades at the Turkey-Greece border. The image in Le Vif shows two migrants holding a board to protect themselves from the water cannons, which were used by the Greek police to block entry in the province of Edirne. The abusive Greek forces and the violent Turkish police are out of the picture.
Myth Debunked: In early March, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that he was opening the country’s border and that migrants would no longer be stopped from trying to reach Europe. Since then, tens of thousands of migrants have been trying to get to Greece through Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing in Edirne, as well as the Evros river, a natural border between Turkey and Greece. As a response, Frontex, the European border control agency, deployed reinforcements to help the Greek police push back migrants, while Greece decided to temporarily suspend EU asylum law for people irregularly entering the country, and to start summary deportations. In numerous clashes with migrants trying to force their way to the country, Greek riot police fired teargas, water cannons and plastic bullets against them. In return, the Turkish police have also been firing teargas towards Greece, to interrupt officers trying to halt migrants. Human Rights Watch has urged the EU to protect people in need, and denounced the severe abuses being committed in the area. “Greek security forces and unidentified armed men at the Greece-Turkey land border have detained, assaulted, sexually assaulted, robbed, and stripped asylum seekers and migrants, then forced them back to Turkey”. The two articles in La Libre and Le Vif mention the deployment of police reinforcements from the EU as well as violence by the Turkish and Greek security forces, but the photos do not illustrate this, obscuring this side of the clashes. A better representation of the clashes would have shown the full picture, as videos and images on the BBC did.
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