News coverage on UNRWA, Palestinian refugees is lacking, new study shows

New study by university professor, media center researchers analyzes news coverage of relationship between UNRWA, refugees

Dr. Lourdes Habash, director of the Ibrahim Abu Lughod Institute of International Studies, together with Baha’ Twam and Roxanna Salameh, two researchers from the Media Development Center at Birzeit University, has recently published a paper exploring the way media organizations address the UNRWA’s connection to Palestinian refugees. 

The paper, entitled “News Coverage of the UNRWA’s Relationship with Palestinian Refugees,” analyzes the content of Al-Quds, Al-Ayyam, and Al-Hayat al-Jadida, three Palestinian newspapers. Specifically, the paper examines the news coverage of the UNRWA and Palestinian refugees from 2014 to 2016. 

The researchers argue in their paper that the amount of coverage dedicated to the relationship between the UNRWA and refugees does not correlate with the importance of such an issue. 

An extensive analysis of the three newspapers revealed that there was no attempt to “highlight content that relates to the ongoing relationship between the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the refugees that it serves.” The authors emphasized the fact that news coverage of this topic was sporadic and disjointed, and that it failed to directly address the most significant issues affecting the relationship. 

This, the authors note, could be attributed to one of two reasons. The first is that there is not adequate attention directed toward refugees and their concerns, while the second is that news pieces constituted most of the news coverage, rather than in-depth reports or inside investigations. As such, the relationship between UNRWA and the refugees it serves was not duly showcased. 

The paper was published as a part of the Media Development Center’s Research and Policies Project – funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) – which includes an article on fact-checking in the new media; research on self-organization in Palestinian media; and research on editorial policies in Palestinian media organizations.