The Problem of Syrian Refugees: Differences in Coverage by 7 Days and The New York Times
Over four million Syrian citizens left their home country as a result of the Civil War and ISIS activities, becoming an issue of concern on an international scale and a topic of interest in media. As in any regional or international issue, media of different countries frequently depict political events in a different light, either focusing on issues that interest readers in a particular country or covering a topic in a manner that concurs with a government’s position. The current paper investigates differences between how the topic of Syrian refugees is covered by The New York Times (TNYT), an American daily newspaper, and 7Days, a newspaper published in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The analysis of articles published in both newspapers demonstrates that while TNYT voices repeatedly that Gulf states do not contribute significantly to solving Syrian refugee crisis in comparison with European states and international community, 7Days focuses on emphasizing the contribution of UAE to supporting Syrian refugees, giving an impression of Emirates’ most active participation in solving the problem.
The Topic of Syrian Refugees in TNYT: The Newspaper’s Background, Audience, and Views on the Issue
The NYT is a daily newspaper with an over a hundred-and-sixty-year-long history. It was founded in the New York City where it is based and published ever since. The newspaper enjoys the second largest daily circulation within the US (nearly one million). It is owned by the TNYT Company, has an international version, and is considered a national newspaper of record within the industry of printed media. The NYT targets a diverse reading audience across income levels and political preferences. The newspaper is considered moderately liberal. Since the 1950s, TNYT endorsed only democratic nominees for president elections, reaffirming its rather liberal views on internal and international affairs. This media outlet is considered to be one of the most popular in the US. Besides being circulated in print, it enjoys a web presence as well.
One who follows the coverage of the issue of Syrian refugees might easily notice a tendency of TNYT to focus on the lack of contribution of Syria’s neighboring states to supporting refugees and offering them a place of permanent residence. Several recent articles expressed that wealthy Arab states do not do as much as they realistically could to support refugees or take in and accommodate those leaving Syria. It is stressed that the problem of refugees is as much the problem of the Arab world as the problem of Europe, the US, and the rest of the world.
For example, The NYT Editorial Board (2014) wrote that although some Syria’s neighbors such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey absorbed nearly four million of Syrian refugees, wealthy Gulf states such as UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia failed to reach out adequately and demonstrate reasonable basic compassion and international citizenship. The article states that this lack of willingness of the part of wealthy Arab states to take in a greater number of refugees is all the more galling since some of these countries played role in fueling civil conflict in Syria by supporting various militant groups. In a recent NYT article, Barnard (2015) wrote that Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar armed and trained rebel groups in Syria. Therefore, they should become active donors and do more to aid and take in more refugees. Barnard (2015) wrote that while Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey are overwhelmed with refugees, wealthy Gulf states do not welcome fleeing Syrians.
A series of recent NYT articles described in depth the lack of involvement of Gulf countries. Hubbard (2015) argues that the Arab Gulf states that enjoy the world’s highest per capita incomes decided to resettle only a surprisingly small number of Syrian refugees. The author writes that humanitarian groups accuse the richest countries of the Arab world of not doing enough to help refugees. Saudi, Emirati, and Qatari approach are limited to providing moderate financial aid and letting other countries and international entities deal with the problem. Furthermore, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar do not give to few refugees they take in a legal asylum or refugee status, leaving them without financial support. Although Hubbard (2015) attempts to present a fair overview of the situation and defines the position of wealthy Gulf states as well, the overall impression that the article gives is that Gulf countries could do much more to help refugees by offering to many places to live, work, and rebuild their lives. The author writes that Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey welcomed hundreds of thousands of more refugees than wealthy Gulf states did despite the fact that latter enjoy the per-capita income that is three to ten times higher than that of Turkey, Jordan, or Lebanon. Hubbard (2015) points out that the unwillingness of rich Gulf countries to take in refugees is an obvious reproach to UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
In a different NYT article, Ignatieff (2015) writes that Gulf states view the Syrian refugee crisis as the ‘European problem’. The author refers to Amnesty International statistics to argue that Gulf states have taken in zero Syrian refugees. The author calls such situation all the more appalling considering that some neighboring Arab countries that have been supplying arms to Syria for years, resort to standing by when millions of people need shelter. Finally, in another NYT article, Fraihat (2015) states that Gulf nations can do significantly more to alleviate the Syrian crisis while benefitting from taking in more refugees. First, growing markets of Gulf states could benefit from bringing in a skilled and qualified Syrian workforce. Second, although hundreds of thousands of Syrians live in Gulf states since 2011 (when Arab uprisings took place), their presence had not threatened the security of Gulf countries. Third, although Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have contributed generously to NGOs, host governments, and the United Nations financially, an overwhelming scale of the Syrian refugee crisis demands more than financial aid. Refugees need homes and an opportunity to work and earn their living. The approach in the form of taking Syrians in and offering homes and employment is much more effective than offering financial handouts. This approach could help adequately aid refugees and prevent the region’s security issues from exacerbation. The author believes that geographic closeness and a vast resource of Gulf nations enable them to play a greater role in solving the refugee crisis.
The analysis of five NYT articles published during 2014-2015 reveals that the unanimous opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board, as well as four authors, is that wealthy neighbors of Syria such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait are not sufficiently involved in helping to resolve the crisis and should contribute more to finding lasting, sustainable solution to refugee problem. Therefore, TNYT is focusing on the point of view that UAE and other wealthy Gulf nations are not participating as much as conscious and responsible international citizens with means should in relieving conditions of Syrian refugees and giving them financial assistance, jobs, and a place to live.
The Topic of Syrian Refugees in 7Days: The Newspaper’s Background, Audience, and Views on the Issue
7Days is a daily newspaper published in UAE in the English language. Initially, the newspaper was founded in 2003 as a weekly tabloid. It was the first free daily newspaper in the UAE and Gulf region. Its daily circulation of 62 thousand copies remained fairly consistent over the last several years. The newspaper is part-owned by Associated Newspaper, a subsidiary of Daily Mail General Trust (DMGT), an international portfolio of businesses across several industries, including media. DMGT is based in the United Kingdom. One notable thing about this newspaper is that its editorial board maintains a stance independent from the rest of the UAE print media sources. Besides being circulated in print, the newspaper maintains an online presence.
The analysis of articles dedicated to the topic of the Syrian refugee crisis indicates that UAE prides itself for making generous financial contributions towards helping host governments, UN, and NGOs, and considers that it went above its duties to help to free citizens of a neighboring country. For example, 7Days Editorial Board (2014) wrote that UAE donated more than $143 million towards health initiatives, water and sanitation projects run by the UN in neighboring host countries that received Syrian refugees. Furthermore, a regional representative of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) asserted that it is essential for GCC to continue collaborating with many partners to impact the refugee crisis positively. Notably, the article highlighted that fact that the UN thanked UAE for contributing significantly to supporting Syrian refugees. A second article by the 7Day Editorial Board (2015) pointed out that UAE is involved in continuous, direct initiatives to support displaced Syrians. For example, in cooperation with international organizations and UN, Emirates provided $130 million worth of additional relief and humanitarian assistance such as food supplements for children, food packages, drinking water, mattresses, blankets, and medical treatment
In another article, Issa (2015b) wrote that UAE donated $365 million to help resolve the refugee crisis during 2012-2014. In spring 2015, the country has pledged $100 million more in humanitarian aid to help displaces Syrians. Also, Kuwait committed to donating $500 million towards providing a better standard of living for refugees. Additionally, the author highlights how programs that UAE is involved in benefit aid organizations, members of displaced Syrian communities, and activities of the International Cooperation and Development Fund (Issa, 2015b). In the next article, Issa (2015a) wrote that the Dubai-based construction company was contracted by the German government to build temporary homes for 2,000 refugees that fled war-torn Syria.
Therefore, the analysis demonstrates that 7Days emphasizes the role that UAE and other wealthy Arab nations play in helping to solve the Syrian refugee crisis. The newspaper focuses on a point of view that they make generous financial donations, provide humanitarian aid, and participate in efforts and initiatives aimed to alleviate hardships that displaced Syrians face. In addition, 7Days highlighted the facts that GCC is determined to continue helping to resolve the situation and that the UN recognized the significant financial contribution of the UAE towards helping refugees and thanked Emirates for valuable cooperation.
TNYT and 7Days: Differences in Focus and Presented Points of View
The comparative analysis of how TNYT and 7Days describe the participation of Gulf Nations and Emirates in solving Syrian refugee problem shows that these outlets maintain a different focus when covering refugee crisis and present two different points of view, one of the American reading audience and another one of Emirates’ official position. First, while TNYT focuses on the entire scope of the problem with refugees in a regional and global context, 7Days focuses on what the UAE is doing to help the problem. Second, reading of reveals an alarming, large-scale problem with refugees and a lack of efforts and resources to resolve it; reading 7Days gives an impression of a rather small regional problem that does not affect Emirates directly and is being steadily resolved with generous financial contributions of Gulf nations. Third, TNYT points out strongly and straightforwardly that wealthy Syrian neighbors should do much more to help refugees; 7Days
makes current aid efforts of wealthy Arab states seem impressive, demonstrating no need for more active involvement. Fourth, TNYT openly places blame on the Gulf States for fueling the military conflict in Syria; 7Days portrays UAE in ф positive light only, leaving no place to insinuations about the good will of Emirates in the conflict. Ходив))
Also, it must be acknowledged that finding articles in TNYT on the topic of the Syrian refugee crisis was much easier than finding articles on the same topic in 7Days. In other words, TNYT covers the issue much more extensively than 7Days does. Apparently, a nation’s media outlet dedicates more space to problems that it considers important in the context of a given country’s political and economic affairs. The fact that an overseas newspaper gives more valuable space to the problem that is a thousand kilometers away than a newspaper of a country whose neighboring nation suffers a full-scale civil war, resulting in millions of refugees, does send a signal about where each country’s priorities lay. Following the 7Days news leaves one under the impression that UAE considers refugee issue a problem of the UN, European countries, and other countries in the region. There were no indications in 7Days’ articles that Emirates should get more actively involved. This is not to say that this country government’s position is wrong. Nevertheless, it does seem that UAE maintains a rather distant position in relation to the Syrian refugee crisis than many other neighboring countries, Europe, and the US. Therefore, the final difference in points of view on refugee crisis between TNYT and 7Days is that while the first one emphasized continuously that Syrian crisis is also a problem and a responsibility of Gulf nations, the latter portrays the Syrian refugee crisis as important, yet somewhat distant problem that does not call for more active intervention.
The analysis of points of views expressed in TNYT and 7Days demonstrates that each newspaper presents the Syrian refugee crisis differently and focuses on different issues. While the American newspaper argues that wealthy Gulf states, including UAE, do not do nearly enough to help refugees, Arab newspaper focuses on emphasizing the contribution of UAE and Gulf states to supporting Syrian refugees. Another notable difference in how two newspapers cover the issue of refugees is that TNYT considers a refugee crisis both regional and global problem. However, 7Days depicts the refugee crisis as a global problem that a global community should work on with financial assistance but without hands-on participation of Emirates.