European Federation of Journalists

New UNESCO handbook: How to transform coverage of migrants and refugees?

Credits: UNESCO 2021, "Reporting on Migrants and Refugees" Handbook Cover

UNESCO just published an open-access handbook for journalism educators, media organisations and associations on how to report on migrants and refugees. This timely publication was researched and edited by the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism at the TU Dortmund University in Germany. The volume can be used as a self-learning tool or as part of journalistic training. Journalists learn how knowledge and awareness of accurate facts, reliable sources and ethical reporting are key to cover migration and forced displacement. The goal is to improve the coverage of migration and create a more balanced and informed public debate across countries via collaborative and qualitative reporting.

Susanne Fengler, Co-author and Scientific Director of the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism, said: “Migration and forced displacement are back on the world’s agenda – with the impact of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan on refugee movements and internally displaced people. Or take the situation in Belarus, where the Lukashenko regime uses migrants from Middle Eastern countries as human weapons to destabilise neighboring countries. Across the world, migration continues to be one of the global challenges of this century – even more so as an outcome of the Corona pandemic.”

This extensive guide enables journalists around the globe to address these challenges by teaching analysis, research, presentation, marketing and ethics of migration coverage. The guide was developed by an international and cross-cultural group of over 30 media researchers, media educators and media practitioners and comprises results of communication studies as well as political and social sciences. The full “Reporting on Migrants and Refugees” handbook can be read here. Additional materials can be found here.

Often, little attention is paid to the root causes of migration and forced displacement. To counter this deficiency, this handbook includes a plethora of theories, creating a basis for the analysis of reporting about migrants and refugees. Further, the fact that coverage of migration is highly complex and often dangerous and traumatic calls for a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural approach. This in-depth, flexible report caters to an international audience and provides additional resources. Diverse case studies and innovative learning exercises make the handbook particularly practical.

The handbook is structured into the following 13 modules:

  1. Matters of migrants and refugees: Challenges of the 21st century
  2. Key sources, key facts, key terms and numbers
  3. Context factors for migration and forced displacement
  4. The media and the migration story – An analysis across countries
  5. Migration coverage – media effects and professional challenges
  6. Case study Guinea-Bissau (West Africa)
  7. Case study Cameroon (Central Africa)
  8. Case study Germany (West Europe)
  9. African movements: From the continent, within the continent, within countries
  10. Professional migration coverage: Best practices and ethical dimensions
  11. Reporting on migrants and refugees: Dealing with trauma
  12. Towards collaborative coverage of migration
  13. Improving the impact: Journalistic strategies and editorial marketing

In the foreword, Guy Berger, Director for Strategies and Policies in the field of Communication and Information, said: “The need for well-trained journalists doing quality reportage on migrants and refugees in today’s content mix is underlined by the unprecedented, even overwhelming, flows of disinformation and conspiracy theories in circulation. Quality journalism around migration and refuge is especially vital where populism and prejudices have become normalised for large swathes of humanity and unleashed misunderstanding, fear and hate. May this handbook therefore become an impactful contribution towards a world in which the management of people on the move is done with the best available information and consideration of human rights, rather than being guided superficial or sensationalist coverage that can fuel both fantasy and frenzy.”

The handbook can be accessed here.