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)
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.
USEFUL RESOURCES & TOOLS
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