Taylor's FSLM Journals
‘Dog Whistle Journalism’ of Racialising Myanmar Refugees

@ SEARCH Journal of Media and Communication Research

Online ISSN: 2672-7080

Yeoh Pei Lee


The journalistic practice of representing refugees is commonly performed by erecting symbolic boundaries that depict their differences from the dominant group. The castigation of such symbolic marking enables how new racism is understood, formed, and naturalised. This expansive contemporary notion of racism locates minority groups as socially constructed categories and a racist discourse is one imbricated with social practices of language, culture, and traditions. Using a discourse analytical approach, this study will demystify the insidious form of racism found in three news reports in The Star, the mostread English daily in Malaysia, that framed the Myanmarese refugees within a negative exclusionary angle. Specifically, at the micro level, a discursive analysis of the properties of news discourse of racism is undertaken. At the macro level, the constitutive association between the discursive and social practice is shown. Through banal journalism, the study reveals how the politics of representing the Myanmar community here problematises the securitisation and the criminalisation of this group of people. Cumulatively, through systematic deconstruction of news discourse from these two levels, this paper displays how racism is intricately embedded and enmeshed in the socio-economic and socio-political structures that are pivotal in establishing certain power structures and group relations within a society. The analysis also reports on discursive means through the use of binary oppositions with the strategic manoeuvering of others brings about a tensile balance of power between the subordinated Myanmarese and the wider national society at large. The paper concludes that such dog-whistle journalism defies the basic tenet of the culture of globalisation i.e. the politics of recognition, where it fails to engage in creating awareness of the plurality of cultures and identities of the Myanmar minority.

Keywords: Racism, media discourse, mecuritisation, Myanmar refugees