There is a “pattern of invisibility” of refugees and migrants in European media, says the report Changing the narrative: media representation of refugees and migrants in Europe presented on 16 November 2017 at the Brussels Press Club.
The report monitored a sample of media on three given days in seven European countries – Greece, Italy, Spain, Serbia, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway. Although it is not meant to be a comprehensive analysis, the research shows that the realities of migration are not always reported and identified the following trends:
- individual migrants or refugees are referenced in only 21% of stories
- of this 21%, less than half of the articles quoted the migrants or refugees directly
- refugees and migrants are most often only identified by their “displacement”
- men constitue the majority (68%) of people named in the articles about asylum and migration
According to Spogmy Jabarkhil from Qvinnan, a network for refugee women, the issue of gender representation in media is crucial as journalists tend to use a narrative of victimhood regarding women migrants. “You’re not fighting for women’s rights as a journalist if you’re only representing refugee women as weak,” she argued.
The need to better train journalists was emphasised by Tom Law from the Ethical Journalism Network, who questioned some of the editorial choices made in the mainstream media. He referred to the photo of Alan Kurdi, which might not have been on front pages, had he been a white, European child. He also raised issues of minority voices missing in the media, and a lack of attachment to core values of journalism and ethics.
The report makes recommendations for media professionals, news organisations, refugee-led organisations and civil society. These include:
- adhering to the five core principles of ethical journalism: accuracy, independence, impartiality, humanity and accountability
- including more individual refugees and migrants in stories, quoting them directly as well as including them in news reports as experts
- seeking increasing diversity in newsrooms, including people with migrant or refugee backgrounds
- identifying journalists who work on migration and asylum issues and reach out to them to develop working relationship
- developing training programmes
The study was published in the framework of the Refugees Reporting project run by the World Association for Christian Communication’s (WACC) Europe Region, and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants (CCME) in Europe.
The event was livestreamed, and the video can be watched online here.