Framing Middle Eastern Ethnic Minorities in the U.S. Press

© Media Watch 10 (3) 484-497, 2019
ISSN 0976-0911 E-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2019/v10i3/49688

Framing Middle Eastern Ethnic Minorities in the U.S. Press

Khalaf Tahat1 & Dina N. Tahat2
1Yarmouk University, Jordan
2University of Jordan, Jordan


The main purpose of this study is to map out how leading newspapers in the U.S. are framing different ethnic groups in the Middle East in their daily reporting. For this analysis, a systematic random sample was drawn from published articles focused on two main ethnic groups in the Arab region, namely, Amazigh “Berbers,” and Copts.  There are 391 news stories in The New York Times and 408 news stories in Washington Post about Berbers and Copts during the last eight years (2011-2019). The study came out with the findings that American newspapers dedicated large spaces to cover the issues of minorities in the Middle East, and there was a greater tendency in the newspapers to cover Coptic minority compared to the Berber minority. The study newspapers heavily relied on minorities sources, both NYT and WP relied on 61% Coptic sources and 67% on Berbers sources.  However, the data showed that Arabic sources were the least cited in stories published about minorities in the Middle East (6% in both NYT and WP). Different frames were used by NYT and WP, while NYT focused more on presenting Copts issues through international frames, WP tends to present Berbers through the cultural frame.

Keywords:   Ethnic and communication, Middle East, framing, Copts, and Berbers


Abunimeh. A., & Masri, R. (2000). The Media’s Spin on Iraq’, in A. Arnove (ed.)  Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War (pp. 101-121). Cambridge, MA: South End Press.
Adams. W.C., & Heyl, P. (1981). From Cairo to Kabul with the Networks, 1972 1980’, in W.C. Adams (ed.) Television Coverage of the Middle East. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Aday, S. Livingston, S., & Hebert, M. (2005). Embedding the truth: A cross-cultural analysis of objectivity and television coverage of the Iraq War. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 10(1), 3-21.
Adeba. B. (2011). A comparative analysis of the Darfur conflict in the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, 2003-2008. Canadian Journal of Media Studies, http://cjms.fims. uwo.Ca/issues/09-01/Adeba.pdf
Ahram Online (2012, September 26). Egyptian Copts reject population estimate. Retrieved from
Ali. S. (2012, September 12). Morocco expands Tamazight teaching. Retrieved from
Angelfire website (n.d). The Berbers of North Africa. Retrieved from
Asi. M. (1981). Arabs, Israelis, and TV news: A time-series, content analysis, in C. Adams, (Ed.), Television Coverage of the Middle East. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Batarfi. K. (1997). Three American prestige newspapers’ stand toward the Arab–Israeli conflicts: A content analysis of editorials. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Bayat. A. (2011). Christian-Muslims clashes after the revolution came as a surprise, after living as peaceful neighbors. Retrieved from
BBC Monitoring (2012, April 19). Algiers police break up rally advocating official status for Berber language.
BBC Monitoring (2013, May 9). Tuareg asserts their Berber identity before the Algerian parliament.
Bensahel. N., & Byman, D. (2004). The future security environment in the Middle East: Conflict, stability, and political change. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.
Berelson. B. R. (1952). Content analysis in communication research. New York, NY: The Free Press.
Berger. P. S. & Luckman, T. (1967).The social construction of reality. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Case. T. (1998). Newspapers. Advertising Age, 69, S1.
Cohen. B. C. (1961). Foreign policy makers and the press. In N. Rosenau (Ed.), international politics and foreign policy (pp. 56-81). New York, NY: The Free Press.
Das. A. (2009. May). Role of media in a political crisis. Paper presented at E-Journal of the 7th AMSAR Conference on Roles of Media during Political Crisis, Bangkok, Thailand. Retrieved from
Davison. W. P. (1976). Mass communication and diplomacy. In Rosenau, J., Thompson, K.W., & Boyd, G. (Eds.), World Politics. New York: The Free Press.
Dimitrova. D., & Stromback, J. (2005). Mission accomplished? Framing of the Iraq war in the elite newspapers in Sweden and the United States. The International Communication Gazette 67(5), 399-417.
Downing. J., & Husband, C. (2005). Representing Race: Racisms, ethnicities, and media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Elsasser. S. (2010). Press liberalization, the new media, and the “Coptic Question”: Muslim-Coptic relations in Egypt in a changing media landscape. Middle Eastern Studies, 46 (1), 131-150.
Emad. M., & Fahmy, S. (2008). The Iraq war on Al Jazeera Websites: Did the English and Arabic language users experience different online coverage? Paper presented in the International Communication Division at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Chicago, IL.
Entman. R. M. (1993). Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication 43(4), p.p. 51–58.
Entman. R. M. (2004). Projections of Power: Framing News, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago.
Galtung. J. & Ruge, M. (1965). The structure of foreign news: The presentation of the Congo, Cuba, and Cyprus crises in four foreign newspapers. Journal of International Peace Research, 1, 64- 90.
Ghareeb. E. (ed.) (1983) Split Vision: The Portrayal of Arabs in the American Media. Washington, DC: American-Arab Affairs Council.
Hamdy. N., & Gomaa, E. (2012). Framing the Egyptian uprising in Arabic language newspapers and social media, Journal of Communication 62 (2), pp.195-379.
Hashem. M. (1997). Coverage of Arabs in two leading US newsmagazines: Time and Newsweek’, in Y. Kamalipour (ed.) The US Media and the Middle East. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Hussain. S. A., (2018). Media narratives from the margins: A framing analysis of press coverage of conflict-induced violence in Indian State Assam. Media Watch 9(1), 37-51.
Horvit. B., Kriel, R., Anderson, K., & Rodriguez, J. (2007). International news coverage in U.S. newspapers in a post-Sept. 11 world. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, The Renaissance, Washington, DC.
Horvit. B., Gade, P., & Lance, E. (2010). Predicting international news coverage: How much influence do gatekeepers have? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Denver, CO.
Human Rights Watch, (2010). Morocco/Western Sahara: More freedom to name their children state recognizing more Amazigh, or Berber names, but the choice still restricted. Report available at
Kabi. K., & Nayak, A. (2019) Media, gender and peace initative in Northeast India: An analysis. Media Watch 10 (2), 223-343.
Ibrahim. D. (2009). The Middle East in American media: A 20th-century overview. International Communication Gazette, 71 (6). Pp 511-524.
Jarjour. R., & Chahine, J. (2007). The media image of the Middle East. Media Development, 54(2), 3-6.
Jasperson. A., & El-Kikhia. M (2003). CNN and Al Jazeera’s media coverage of America’s War in Afghanistan. In Norris, p., Kern, M.& Just, M.(Eds.) In framing terrorism: The news media, the government, and the public New York, NY: Routledge.
Kumaraswamy. P. R. (2003). Problems of studying minorities in the Middle East. Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, 2 (2), 244-264.
Lippmann. W. (1922). Public opinion. New York. Macmillan.
Mahmood. S. (2011). Sectarian conflict and family law in contemporary Egypt. Journal of the American  Ethnological Society, 39 (1),  45-62.
Majdi. D. (2011, October).  The American press treatment of the Arab revolution during 2011” In Arabic.” Paper presented in Social Transition in the Arab Region Conference at Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan 23-25/October, 2011.
McCombs. M., Llamas, J., Lopez-Escobar, E., & Rey, F. (1997). Candidate Images In           Spanish Elections: Second-Level Agenda-Setting Effects. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 74(4), 703-717.
Mousa. I. (1984). The Arab Image in the US Press. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Raju. S. K. S., Jagadeswari, S. K., and Dissanayake, W. (1984). Treating the Indo-Pakistan conflict: The role of Indian newspapers and magazines. In Arno, A., and Dissanayake, W. (Eds.), The news media in national and international conflict (pp 101-131). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Ryan. M. (2004). Framing the war against terrorism: US Newspaper Editorials and Military Action in Afghanistan.  International Communication Gazette, 66 (5), 363-382.
Scheufele. D. A. (2000). Agenda-Setting, priming, and framing revisited: Another look at the cognitive effects of political. Mass Communication & Society, 3(2/3), 297.
Shaheen. J. (1981). Images of Saudis and Palestinians: A review of major documentaries, in W.C. Adams (ed.) Television Coverage of the Middle East. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Sheikh. K., Price, V., & Oshagan, H. (1995). Press treatment of Islam: What kind of picture do the media paint? Gazette 56(1), 139–54.
Shoemaker. P.J., & Reese, S.D. (1996).Mediating the message. (2nded.)White Plains, NY: Longman.
Stampnitzky. L. (2005, August). Terrorism experts say…? Experts on terrorism in theNew York Times,1973-2001. Paper presented in the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
Suleiman. M. (1988). Arabs in the Mind of America. Brattleboro, VT: Amana Books.
The Phoenician International Research Center (2013). Amazigh, (Berber) the Indigenous Non-Arab Population of North Africa, and Their language. Retrieved from
Weiss. C. H. (1974): What American leaders read? Public Opinion Quarterly, 38 (5), 1-22.
Wimmer. R., & Dominick, J. (2011). Mass media research: An introduction. (9th ed.). CA: Thomson.
Yani. B. (2009). Reporting the Maluku sectarian conflict: The politics of editorship in Kompas and Republika dailies. VDM Verlag, Germany.
Yioutas. J., & Segvic, I. (2003). Revisiting the Clinton/Lewinsky Scandal: The Convergence of Agenda Setting and Framing. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 80(3), 567-582.
Zeidan. D. (1999). The Copts: Equal, protected, or persecuted? The impact of Islamization on Muslim-Christian relations in modern Egypt. Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 10 (1), 53-67.

Khalaf Tahat (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma, USA, 2015 ) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism at Yarmouk University, Jordan.
Dina N. Tahat is pursuing her research in the areas of socio-economic, and women and gender studies at the Sociology Department of the University of Jordan.