European Federation of Journalists

New study shows that media are under-resourced when covering migration

Media in many countries in the Euro-Mediterranean region don’t have enough resources and are unable to provide time, money and appropriate level of expertise needed to tell the migration story in context. This is the main finding of a recent studyHow does the media on both sides of the Mediterranean report on migration?”, conducted by the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) and implemented by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).

Journalists from 17 countries examined the quality of migration media coverage in 2015/2016 from a national perspective. The study covers nine European countries and eight countries in the south of the Mediterranean.

The 122 pages long study starts with the premise that media coverage is vital to shaping people’s opinions on migration and the difficulties of refugees and asylum seekers. It goes on identifying major challenges and shortcomings of migration reporting.

  1. The migration story often follows two media narratives: first is the emotional and highly-charged reporting on the plight of migrants as victims and the second is the potential threat migrants pose to the security, welfare and cultural standing of host communities.
  2. The language of reporting is often laced with hate-speech and loose language, talk of “waves”, “invasions” or “tides”.
  3. Media coverage has a strong national focus, with a lack of detailed reporting on the context and complexities of migration.
  4. Media staff are often inadequately trained in migration reporting – they work in precarious conditions and there is a reliance on badly-paid freelance workers.
  5. Often media fail to give adequate voice to migrants themselves and rely too heavily on single, official sources of information.
  6. Social media and online sources often influence media coverage and encourage a “rush to publish” through the dissemination of rumour, speculation and alarmist information, which feeds fear and ignorance among the public.

At the same time, the study highlights inspirational examples of journalism at its best – resourceful, painstaking, and marked by careful, sensitive and humanitarian reporting. It also provides a series of detailed recommendations, among which are the following:

  • promoting exchange of media best practices from countries where the migration crisis is most acute;
  • workshops and online methods for journalists and media to encourage ethical reporting with a focus on the use of correct terminology, understanding international humanitarian law, avoiding hate-speech and political bias, ensuring presence of diverse voices …;
  • improving the conditions of journalists and media workers – providing resources for their research and in-depth journalism;
  • inserting migration issues into existing programmes to support public education and training in media literacy;
  • encouraging policymakers, community and civil society leaders to play a more active role in creating space for tolerance and dialogue in public discussion of migration;
  • promoting the sharing of information and experience between countries and new dialogues at national level.

The full study in English is available here.