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Sunday, 22 October, 2000, 14:56 GMT
Media 'must do better' on race
Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence was killed in 1993 in south-east London
By the BBC's Martin Vennard

Racial stereotyping and under-representation of the ethnic minorities are still too common in the British media, journalists have been told.

Speakers at a conference in London addressing whether progress has been made on reporting race issues since the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence said the media still had much to do.


There's a hell of a long way to go

Gurbux Singh
Stephen's mother, Doreen, told the National Union of Journalists-organised event: "We need to build bridges between blacks and whites. Through your work you can assist this or you can damage people."

Simon Israel, from Channel 4 news, said he thought that Stephen's death seven years ago and the inquiry surrounding it had changed the way the media sees race issues.

"Most days now there are stories about race in the national news. Some are pro-equality, but some are anti," he said.

Peter Victor, of The Express newspaper, said race issues carried much more weight in papers now, but added: "There's still a long way to go."

Stereotyping

Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, Gurbux Singh, said racial stereotyping still took place.

"You in the media indulge in it and it's about time you stopped doing it. You should use your power in a constructive way which portrays race in a fair and balanced way," he said.

He added that coverage of the asylum seekers debate was a case in point and had led to some of the increasing tensions on the ground in the port town of Dover.

"I believe there have been some improvements in the way the media is dealing with race matters, but it's also valid to say there's a hell of a long way to go. There's a problem of portrayal. When do you see a black or Asian person asked to comment on the economic situation?" he said.


I was very surprised to hear I had said that the word British was racist

Bhikhu Parekh
Professor Bhikhu Parekh, one of the authors of the recent report on the future of multi-ethnic Britain, said some papers had misrepresented what the report was about. "I said the term British has acquired racial connotations.

"I was very surprised to hear I had said that the word British was racist."

He said the media needed to be inclusive. "They need to monitor their staff. They need to change their organisational structure and they need to be self-disciplined," he said.

Alex Pascall
Alex Pascall said the media still concentrated on the negative aspects of race issues
The meeting was held in Notting Hill and Alex Pascall, chair of the NUJ's black members council, said all sections of the media, including the black press, were still concentrating on the negative aspects of the Notting Hill Carnival, one of Europe's biggest street events.

Mrs Lawrence said that recent newspaper reports that the family was to receive compensation for Stephen's death had made them look mercenary.

"What the press failed to highlight is the injustice my family has gone through. They can never give me my son back."

Linda Mitchell, head of diversity at the BBC, said a lot had been done to try to change the way black people were represented in the corporation and on its output, but that change had been slow.

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