Media portrayal of immigration in the South African media, 2011-2015

As part of the Lunchtime Seminar Series, the African Centre for Migration & Society invites you to a seminar titled Media portrayal of immigration in the South African media, 2011-2015 presented by Nixon Kariithi (Tangaza Africa Media). The issue of media representation of immigrants is particularly pertinent today, given the current anti-immigrant sentiment in parts of Europe and the United States. In South Africa, negative attitudes towards foreigners are common and media discursive descriptions of immigrants as illegal, undocumented or a dangerous threat is typical. This study utilises quantitative tools of analysis to explore the media coverage of immigration adopting the RASIM Corpus Linguistics (CL) approach.

The rubric – REFUGEE, ASYLUM-SEEKER, IMMIGRANT, MIGRANT is adjusted to RASFIM – REFUGEE, ASYLUM-SEEKER, FOREIGNER, IMMIGRANT, MIGRANT – to more appropriately account for the specific nuances of representations of immigrants in the South African media. The data, comprising of over 5,000 relevant media articles, was drawn in annual tranches for the period 2011–2015. The findings identify significant patterns that are consistent with extant literature on media constructions of foreigners as “illegal immigrants.” Other findings relating to “shop” and “trade” references offer evidence of the complex and at times contradictory nature of public discourses on immigration. Media narratives go as far as to suggest that foreign-owned shops are fronts to conceal “drug-dealing” and other “illicit activities.”


Professor Nixon Kariithi, CEO of Tangaza Africa Media, is one of Africa’s leading scholars in journalism, public communications and media studies. Over the past 27 years, he has played a leading role in researching and teaching business and economics journalism and media studies across Africa. Kariithi was associate professor and Pearson Chair of Economics Journalism at Rhodes University, Grahamstown (1999-2004), and associate professor and head of media studies at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (2004-2009). He has also been appointed visiting professor at Cairo University, Egypt; Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia; and City University of New York, USA. He is currently research associate at the University of Pretoria.

Kariithi has consulted on corporate reputation management, stakeholder management, international business issues, change management and organisational communication with over 50 leading organisations in Africa. Among his well-celebrated achievements is the global patent of MRI, the world’s first index of media reputation, an innovation that opened new ways of evaluating the impact of media coverage on corporate reputation management.

Date: Tuesday 29 August 2017

Time: 12.30 -13.30

Venue: ACMS Seminar Room 2163, South East Wing, Second Floor, Solomon Mahlangu House, University of the Witwatersrand East Campus