This collection sets about untangling some of the knotty issues in the underexplored relationship between human rights and the media. We investigate how complex debates in political, judicial, academic and public life on the role and value of human rights are represented in the media, particularly, in print journalism. To focus the discussion, we concentrate on media representation of the controversial proposals in the United Kingdom to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and to replace it with a British Bill of Rights. The collection is underpinned by the observation that views on human rights and on the proposals to repeal and replace are polarised. On the one hand, human rights are presented as threatening and, therefore, utterly denigrated; on the other hand, human rights are idolised, and, therefore, uncritically celebrated. This is the ‘fear and fetish’ in our title. The media plays a decisive role in constructing this polarity through its representation of political and ideological viewpoints. In order to get to grips with the fear, the fetish and this complex interrelationship, the collection tackles key contemporary themes, amongst them: the proposed British Bill of Rights, Brexit, prisoner-voting, the demonisation of immigrants, press freedom, tabloid misreporting, trial by media and Magna Carta. The collection explores media representation, investigates media polarity and critiques the media’s role.

chapter |5 pages


ByEleanor Drywood, Michelle Farrell, Edel Hughes

part I|91 pages


chapter 1|32 pages

‘They offer you a feature on stockings and suspenders next to a call for stiffer penalties for sex offenders’

Do we learn more about the media than about human rights from tabloid coverage of human rights stories?
ByDavid Mead

chapter 2|34 pages

It’s not me, it’s you

Examining the print media’s approach to ‘Europe’ in Brexit Britain
ByStephanie Reynolds

part II|79 pages


chapter 4|26 pages

Monstering Strasbourg over prisoner voting rights

ByC. R. G. Murray

chapter 5|30 pages

Demonising immigrants

How a human rights narrative has contributed to negative portrayals of immigrants in the UK media
ByEleanor Drywood, Harriet Gray

chapter 6|21 pages

Trial by media

The fair trial jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in the UK press
ByYvonne McDermott

part III|47 pages


chapter 7|26 pages

Human rights and public debate

The media as scapegoat?
ByEkaterina Balabanova

chapter 8|19 pages

Careful what you wish for

Press criticism of the legal protection of human rights
ByJacob Rowbottom

part IV|69 pages


chapter 9|23 pages

Arguing the case for human rights in Brexit Britain

ByColm O’Cinnéide

chapter 10|20 pages

Instrumentalism in human rights and the media

Locking out democratic scepticism?
ByMichael Gordon

chapter 11|24 pages

Magna Carta and the invention of ‘British rights’

ByMichelle Farrell, Edel Hughes