La Strada Documentation Center

Review of the media framing of human trafficking

Document number
Review of the media framing of human trafficking
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Document type(s)
human trafficking, exploitation, prostitution, human rights, abuse, media
TRACE is a two-year research project, in which La Strada International participates, that aims to study the modus operandi of human trafficking networks and routes and the profiles of the traffickers in Europe.

This publication offers a review of the way in which, human trafficking is framed within the news media - incorporating case studies from the United Kingdom, Cyprus and Poland. Tacing stock of press articles over the course of the years 2010 – 2014 the report summarises the findings and answers three central questions: (i) How does the news media frame human trafficking? (ii) Is there much discourse on European policy and legislation? (iii) What perception of human trafficking is the public likely to retain? To answer these questions 212 articles from ten newspapers were analysed.

The research shows that in all three countries, human trafficking is most often presented in the media in a sensationalist way, usually concerning (forced) prostitution or as a problem connected with migration, including the free movement of people within the EU. The root causes or vulnerability of people are rarely discussed, as well as the human rights abuses that victims suffer. Instead, the media focuses on the criminal justice and police response and generally stories that can capture the attention of more people - stories related to police raids, court convictions and victims of sexual exploitation.