Mainstream media play a significant role in shaping public opinion in modern society.
For refugees, misinterpretation (including associations with victimhood, foreignness and
deviant behaviour) can hinder integration into New Zealand society and the ability to
fully participate in their new communities. This may affect refugees’ successful transition
into the workforce through effects on both their self-image and mental health, as well as
contributing to negative attitudes in potential employers. This study examines
the linguistic framing of refugees in New Zealand print media. Starting from the
assumption that language is socially constitutive, a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)
framework is used to explore discourses surrounding this group, to uncover out-of-sight
linguistic strategies that reproduce existing structures of power and inequality. Analysis
indicates that discourses around refugees create a negative semantic prosody, or ‘aura’ of
meaning, in which they are framed as a policy ‘issue’ and as ‘othered’ victims.
Furthermore, refugees are afforded little opportunity to define their experiences in their
own terms. Addressing refugees’ misrepresentation and any wider societal effects
involves granting greater voice to refugees without the need for an ‘expert’ voice to
validate their views. Equally, replacing the existing taken-for-granted framing of refugees
to positive framings of strength, capability and resilience could arguably counter the
‘othering’ this group experiences and the barriers it may create to inhibit successful
transition to employment.