Janus-Faced Portrayal: News Representation of Migrant Workers in Malaysian Newspapers Amid COVID-19

Huihuang Lai, Hanizah Idris, Jiankun Gong


The global pandemic has adversely affected migrant workers psychologically and economically, leading to a poor quality of life. How the Malaysian media portrays this group during uncertainty remains unexplored. Aside from Eurocentric-focused scholarship, this study uniquely examines the representation of migrant workers in Malaysia. An inductive qualitative analysis of two Malaysian newspapers, Malay Mail (n = 36) and New Straits Times (n = 33), was conducted from January 2021 to August 2021. The findings show that the media portray migrant workers in a Janus-faced manner: They sympathetically represent them as vulnerable groups but also with an antagonistic stereotypical representation. This shows that media outlets adopt a more versatile approach to reporting on this group, which differs from previous studies. This study adds new perspectives and broadens the literature on the representation of migrant workers in ASEAN countries, such as Malaysia. It is also significant because it highlights subaltern erasures in the news discourses of marginalized groups, reducing xenophobia and racism toward them.



migrant workers, news representation, Malaysia, COVID-19, Malaysian newspaper, news portrayal

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