Arab Media Representations of the Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Textual Analysis of Jordanian, Egyptian, Emirati, and Kuwaiti Press

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Al Khatib, Aya
Graduate Program:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
July 04, 2019
Committee Members:
  • Anthony Olorunnisola, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Patrick Lee Plaisance, Committee Member
  • Yael Warshel, Committee Member
  • Syrian
  • refugee
  • Jordan
  • Egypt
  • Kuwait
  • UAE
  • Migrants
  • Asylum Seekers
  • Newspaper
ABSTRACT This thesis examines the ways in which online media from Arab host and non-host countries represent the Syrian refugee crisis. Using textual analysis, news stories published between July 2015 and July 2016 by two newspapers from Jordan (Al Ghad and Jordan Times), Egypt (Al Ahram and Daily News Egypt), Kuwait (Al Rai and Arab Times), and the United Arab Emirates (Al Khaleej and Khaleej Times) respectively were comparatively analyzed. Emergent themes regarding portrayals of their own countries, other countries, and of the Syrian refugees were examined, as well as the levels of direct quotes credited to Syrians, sources used, characterizations of the Syrian refugees, and the valence of the news stories collected. Although many differences were found in the news coverage, findings indicate that the most common ways both host and non-host countries portrayed themselves were highlighting their roles in their response towards the Syrian refugee crisis and calling for more international support. Regarding their representations of other countries, the most common emergent themes were acknowledging host countries, acknowledging donor countries, and focusing on the rising tensions in Europe. Regarding portrayals of the Syrian refugees, common findings among host and non-host countries were portraying the refugees as a burden, victims, and as a security threat. As for the levels of direct quotes directed to Syrians, both host and non-host countries were less likely to include direct quotes by Syrian refugees in their news stories and more likely to quote public officials. Concerning the characterization of Syrians, the most common term used was "refugees", followed by "migrants", and then "asylum-seekers". Both host and non-host countries included the neutral valence in their news stories, followed by the negative, and then the positive (with the exception of Al Khaleej from the UAE). This thesis illustrates the complexities regarding news coverage of a refugee crisis. Finally, when comparing Arabic and English-language newspapers, differences were found between the two regarding levels of direct quotes and the valences of the news stories. English published more news stories that included direct quotes credited to Syrians, and Arabic newspapers published more stories including the positive valence.