Boat People. The mention of the phrase sparks discussion among all Australian citizens. It’s an issue, which provokes a public opinion about what should, and shouldn’t happen to these refugees. Although we, as the public, think we know all the details surrounding the background and foreground of this story, does the media present every aspect to the audience or are these individuals portrayed fairly amongst the media?
Asylum seekers, or ‘Boat People’ as referred to by past governments, have increased in the rate of numbers in boats travelling to Australia. Since the start of 2009 there has been an influx of refugees, and between 2009 and the middle of 2013 over 737 boats carrying over 44,156 passengers have entered Australian waters. These boats are often unsafe, overcrowded, and contain limited sources of food and water.
Sometimes we forget the conditions and circumstances in which has led to these people fleeing their respective countries. Many face war, poverty, and persecution from tyrannical governments. Article 14 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”, and Article 9 also states “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”. However, Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers is totally against these international standards, and has been condemned by Human Rights Watch, which describes the country’s immigration policies as ‘draconian’. It is immensely devastating that death is a better alternative than the situations many of these people are currently in.
These conditions in which the refugees are held are usually much better conditions than that of their previous home. However, the media sometimes fails to gives details on how bad the conditions actually are in those camps. Refugees on Manus Island are being held in conditions Amnesty International has described as “cruel, inhuman, degrading and violating prohibitions against torture.” These ‘slave-like conditions, has led to many protests from refugees, going to extreme, life- threatening conditions. “Medical workers attend to an asylum seeker who has swallowed razor blades and sewn his lips shut… 1000 or so detainees are protesting…two thirds of the centre population is refusing food…a man has lost 20 kilograms on 78 days hunger strike…organ failure…severely dehydrated…may not survive.”
In heavily opinionated topics, like the treatment of refugees, the public need to be given all accounts of the story so they can make an informed judgement as to their feelings behind a matter of discussion. Media organisations can manipulate our views on any given topic, through how they communicate and present news to the public. However this is not always due to there own terms. In some instances, journalists and media representatives are given little, or no access to boundaries within the refugee camps. Media commentator Paul Toohey told ‘Media Watch’, “I think the government has been doing its best to deny access to the people, which would give Australians a better understanding of the issue.” This comment outlines how the government could be withholding information as to the conditions or treatment of this issue.
Certainly, this issue is one that is hot on the minds of all politicians at the moment. The public is anxiously waiting to see what the government’s final view is on how these people. It is clear however, that the media does not give us full details of many issues, including the conditions within detainment. The media needs to be neutral so we can assess the information given to the public, and make an impartial judgment about these refugees.