The Refugee Swap Deal in Malaysian Online News Reports: Ideology and Representation

Stef Bolte, Yuen Chee Keong


Using Critical Discourse Analysis, this study attempts to examine the representation of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants (henceforth RASIM) in news reports from three selected English online newspapers in Malaysia: The Star, The New Straits Times (NST) and Malaysiakini. This research aims to reveal the representations of RASIM and attempts to unravel the ways in which ideology and context shape the discourse surrounding RASIM. The focus of the article is the Refugee Swap Deal between Australia and Malaysia that was announced in 2011. Although the Refugee Swap deal did not take place, the media discourse provided distinctive information about discursive strategies that media draw upon to represent RASIM. The general characteristics of the news reports disclose that there are ideological differences at play and that three main themes are frequently utilised to attribute certain characteristics to RASIM: refugee protection, people smuggling and human trafficking, and policy and national security. In Malaysian media, the reporting on RASIM has been framed according to the political stance of newspapers: in a positive supportive way by the government linked media, The NST and The Star, and in a more balanced way in the alternative, or non-government linked media, Malaysiakini. These reporting styles show differences in situational context and ideology that shaped the discourse of the newspapers, contributing significantly to the portrayal of RASIM in particular ways.




critical discourse; ideology; refugees; asylum seekers; immigrants

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Malaysiakini.14/05/2011. Australia to send newest asylum seekers offshore

Malaysiakini.26/05/2011. Australia looks to Malaysia to keep boatpeople adrift

Malaysiakini.09/06/2011. Australia boatpeople given immunity from caning

Malaysiakini.17/06/2011. M’sia to press on with Australia refugee swap

Malaysiakini.26/07/2011. Australia Malaysia refugee swap could grow

Malaysiakini.06/08/2011. Australia firm on Malaysia refugee deal

Malaysiakini.31/08/2011. Australia ‘profoundly disappointed’ by ruling

Malaysiakini.01/09/2011. Aust-M’sia deal failure a ‘major embarrassment’

New Straits Times. 09/05/2011. Pact gives refugees protection

New Straits Times. 04/06/2011. KL ‘wants veto power’ on refugees

New Straits Times. 18/06/2011. KL, Canberra to go on with refugee swap plan

New Straits Times. 24/06/2011. ‘Aussie MPs are welcome to visit’

New Straits Times. 26/07/2011. A blow to people smugglers

New Straits Times. 26/07/2011. A regional solution with crucial safeguards

New Straits Times. 17/09/2011. ‘Nauru solution won’t stop human traffickers’

New Straits Times. 02/09/2011. ‘We respect Aussie court decision’

The Star.18/05/2011.Asylum swap deal is ‘pioneering’

The Star.26/05/2011.Hisham: Asylum deal will deter people smugglers

The Star.18/06/2011.KL-Canberra refugee deal still on the table

The Star.23/07/2011.Australia and Malaysia to sign refugee pact on Monday

The Star.25/07/2011.Malaysia and Australia seal deal for asylum seekers

The Star.10/08/2011.Malaysia prepared to receive asylum seekers from Australia as part of deal

The Star.23/08/2011.Aussie court verdict on refugee swap deal with Malaysia next week

The Star.31/08/2011.Australian High Court rules against refugee swap deal with M’sia


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