How to cover Migration on Media? 7 recommendations for Journalists


One picture travelled around the world and soared charity donations. One broadcast played a crucial role in creating the atmosphere of charged racial hostility that allowed for a genocide to occur. We are talking about the iconic photo of the body of 3-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, and the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines convicted for inciting in April to July 1994 the Rwandan genocide. However, media coverage is not only positive or negative.

According to the World Migration Report 2018, media, in all its forms, plays a significant role in the framing of policy discourses that affect how people act, what people think, how policymakers prioritize agendas, and how migrants make decisions. Given this, it raises the question: How should journalists and media professionals approach a complicated and diverse issue such as Migration?

For this purpose, we provide a list of recommendations to improve reporting on migrants and migrations from a human rights-based approach:

  • Words matter. Journalists often employ inexact terms like “illegal” “aliens” or fail to distinguish between asylum seekers, migrants, refugees and the rights and the protection they are entitled under international law. Examine the terminology you use, consult IOM´s  Glossary on Migration and/or seek capacity-building opportunities and online workshops to understand migration.
  • Respect the dignity of migrants. Avoid the use of dehumanizing language and metaphors that cast migration as form of a natural disaster (often a flood), or migrants as animals, especially insects (“swarms”).
  • Challenge hate speech. Avoid stereotypical, negative expressions referring to the ethnic origin of suspects, for instance, crime reports emphasizing the legal stay status of a person. The Ethical Journalism Initiative has developed a helpful tool and reminds journalists that just because someone said something outrageous it doesn’t make it newsworthy.
  • Connect with migrants. Include a variety of sources, engage with migrants, refugee groups, activists and NGOs that can provide vital information. It is important to include the voice of migrants and reflect the human aspect of Migration, advocate and report on humanitarian crisis and/or violation of human rights at hand, the contrary may reduce migrant’s livelihood and dignity to a problem or a number to be debated over in public discourse.  
  • Ensure a balanced coverage. Avoid victimization and over simplification. In most cases, migrants are perceived in extremes, either as a problem or as victim. Challenge these notions and promote other aspects of migration, for example, cover the stories of successful artists, diasporas, remittances and the contribution of migrants to development in your country.
  • Adopt an International focus. Place the migration story in a global context, local or national interests may predominate at the expense of a wider understanding of the migration and the reasons for it. Framing migration as a conflict between nations may highlight the differences and disparate views of certain individuals or governments officials at the expense of migrant’s rights, integrity and dignity.
  • Promote evidence-based public discourse. Make use of accurate information and resources, understand that correlation does not mean causation, be transparent and share with the public resources to further explore the topic at hand. Confront, fact-check and analyze statements to hold accountable authorities, educate the public and contribute to a deeper understanding of migration.

In the rise of xenophobic and anti-migrant discourses, as stated by IOM in Migration Initiatives 2019 - Migration governance: From commitments to actions: media professionals and journalists have an important role in shaping perceptions. Follow these recommendations and counter negative attitudes and behavior towards migrants by raising awareness on risks or situations of human rights violations faced by migrants and advocating for them to stop.


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Under full respect for the freedom of media, the vast majority of the UN member states have also agreed on eliminating all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration, in tandem with the Sustainable Development Goals (8.8, 10.3, 10.7, 16.b)


Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) 

Objective 17 c)

Promote independent, objective and quality reporting of media outlets, including internet-based information, including sensitizing and educating media professional on migration related issues and terminology, investing in ethical reporting standards and advertising, and stopping allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants, in full respect for the freedom of the media.



Ethical Journalism Institute

Training Modules on Labour Migration for Media Professionals, International Labour Organization

Media and Trafficking in Human Beings – Guidelines

Charter of Rome for reporting on migrants and refugees

The Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality

Media Diversity Institute

The Media Project




Migration Governance: An adaptation strategy to Climate Change

Joki and Bevelyn alongside their disabled brother and parents are the sole family living on the tiny island of Huene. Originally linked to a nearby island, the island has been slowly shrinking over the years making it increasingly difficult to grow crops. It is likely that Joki and Bevelyn will be the last generation to live on the island. Photos: IOM 2016 / Muse Mohammed
Categoria: Environmental Migration
Autor: Guest Contributor


Although the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change points that Parties have common but differentiated responsibilities on mitigating the effects of climate change, the harsh truth is that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are suffering disproportionately from those effects, despite contributing less than 1 per cent total greenhouse gas emissions. Disasters due to natural hazards, many of which are exacerbated by climate change and which are increasing in frequency and intensity, have taken a heavy toll in the Caribbean. In 2017, the Atlantic Hurricane season displaced over 3 million people in a month.

The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report projects that at 1.5°C, SIDS will face increased incidents of internal migration and displacement, freshwater stress and even more worrisome increased aridity, coastal flooding and wave run-up that might leave several atoll islands uninhabitable. In this regard, Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General at the CARICOM Secretariat, commented

 “We [Caricom] have to keep sounding our small but powerful voices because climate change is existential to us.”

Caribbean States have launched an exemplary range of adaptation measures such as early warning systems, insurance funds, infrastructure works, and resilience building as is the case in Dominica. However, it remains important to address the links between climate change, vulnerability, displacements and the increased potential risks faced by SIDS to ensure environmental-induced migration is not equated with crisis, but with adaptation.

In this line, migration governance efforts can help tackle the effects of climate change more effectively by:

1. Integrating human mobility in national disaster risk management, national adaptation plans and policies to minimize forced migration and displacement. For example, Cuba has implemented an effective emergency preparedness and disaster response centered around community mobilization and preparedness. According to the 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement, before and during Hurricane Irma, 1.7 million people were evacuated, demonstrating that displacement need not always be a negative outcome but can also enhance disaster reduction.  Approaching crises from a human mobility aspect highlights the necessity to protect vulnerable populations from trafficking in persons and other human rights violations.

2. Promoting cooperation with neighboring and other relevant countries to prepare for early warning, contingency planning, stockpiling, coordination mechanisms, evacuation planning, border management, reception and assistance arrangements to facilitate safe and orderly migration and enhance capacity response to cross-border disaster displacement, return and reintegration.

3. Developing bilateral and multilateral migration agreements for the involvement of migrants and diaspora members in labour opportunities to provide financial and human resources to their home countries. As stated by IOM’s Migration Crisis Operational Framework, diaspora may be keen on participating and even willing to return in support of transition and recovery processes. The World Bank adds that lowering transactions fees and facilitating remittances can tap into the potential of diasporas for disaster relief and recovery efforts.  An example of such agreement could be the facilitation of temporary labour migration schemes of qualified workers to assist in the reconstruction efforts of post crisis environments. For instance, IOM’s hurricane response in Dominica included the training of 71 individuals in basic carpentry as well as the employment of 36 carpenters, four of which were migrant workers from Trinidad and Tobago.

4. Strengthening sub regional approaches, cooperation and building the capacities of all the countries involved is essential to promote reliance, resilience and sustainable development as well as humanitarian assistance and human rights protection of affected populations wherever they are located across the region.

5. Planning relocation is perceived as a key adaptation initiative in many countries due to the rise of sea level and flooding. As highlighted by the World Bank it is important to contemplate this strategy as a long term and even last resort solution considering that adaptation “in place” has its limits as certain landscapes become unviable for sustained and dignified livelihoods.

6. Enabling migration as an adaptation strategy to make livelihoods less climate-dependent by creating sensitive and inclusive incentives or “pulls” away from climate sensitive locations and sectors. In this regard, the World Bank suggests the creation of resilient-economy transitions and diversification. This includes the shift to alternate job opportunities, the training of potential migrants, integration efforts (particularly in urban areas), and identifying climate-resilient labour markets.

Migration is a complex phenomenon with often multiple drivers, yet environmental-induced migration remains a reality and is expected to increase due to the effects of climate change. Migration governance measures in regards to human mobility and the rights of migrants and potential migrants should be contemplated as part of wholistic adaptation strategies, especially as States, particularly those in the Caribbean region, continue stepping up climate ambition.


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