Checkliste des Presserats zur Berichterstattung über Flüchtlinge (Press Council Checklist for Reporting on Refugees)

Die Checkliste dient der Selbstreflexion und ist eine Orientierungshilfe für die Praxis, die Grundlage für die Entscheidungen des Presserats ist selbstverständlich weiterhin allein der Ehrenkodex für die österreichische Presse.

Checkliste “Verantwortungsvoller Journalismus in der Flüchtlingsberichterstattung”

  • Würde ich über ein Fehlverhalten auch dann berichten, wenn es nicht von einem Ausländer/Asylwerber/Migranten gesetzt worden wäre?
  • Habe ich das Thema ausreichend recherchiert, gehen meine Quellen über bloße (Internet-)Gerüchte hinaus?
  • Habe ich jene Fakten präsentiert, die für eine umfassende und ausgewogene Darstellung meines Themas notwendig sind?
  • Habe ich geprüft, ob durch meine Berichterstattung/meine Wortwahl/meine Fotoauswahl Vorurteile verstärkt werden?
  • Habe ich geprüft, ob ich Informationen, die Vorurteile schüren könnten, weglassen kann, ohne den Sinn und den Wahrheitsgehalt der Geschichte zu verändern oder das Verständnis der Leserinnen und Leser zu beeinträchtigen?
  • Habe ich geprüft, ob bestimmte Informationen nicht andere Absichten konterkarieren (z.B. keine Nennung von Herkunft, aber Nennung eines auf einen Ausländer deutenden Vornamens)? Anmerkung: Die bloße Nennung der Herkunft eines (mutmaßlich) straffällig gewordenen Ausländers/Asylwerbers/Migranten ist nach der gängigen Praxis der Senate des Presserats kein Ethikverstoß. Dennoch sollten Journalisten abwägen, ob es im konkreten Fall für das Verständnis der Leserinnen und Leser erforderlich ist, die Herkunft anzuführen.
  • Habe ich überlegt, ob durch meine Berichterstattung/meine Wortwahl/meine Fotoauswahl jemand gekränkt oder beleidigt werden könnte?
  • Bin ich mir im Klaren darüber, welche Absichten meine Hinweisgeber/Recherchequellen verfolgen?
  • Kann ich zu dem Thema ein Internet-Forum eröffnen, ohne befürchten zu müssen, dass die Diskussion entgleist?
  • Bin ich sicher, dass ich keine außerjournalistischen Gründe habe, ausgerechnet dieses Thema aufzugreifen?

Presserate checklist for reporting on refugees

The checklist serves self-reflection and is a guide to practice, the basis for the decisions of the Press Council is of course still only the code of honour for the Austrian press.

  • Would I report misconduct even if it had not been set by a foreigner/asylum seeker/migrant?
  • Have I researched the topic sufficiently, do my sources go beyond mere (internet) rumours?
  • Have I presented the facts necessary for a comprehensive and balanced presentation of my topic?
  • Have I checked to see if my coverage / my choice of words / my choice of photos reinforces prejudices?
  • Have I checked whether I can leave out information that might fuel prejudice without altering the meaning and truthfulness of the story or interfering with the reader’s understanding?
  • Have I checked whether certain information does not counteract other intentions (for example, no mention of origin, but mention of a first name referring to a foreigner)? Note: The mere mention of the origin of a (presumably) delinquent foreigner/asylum seeker/migrants is not an ethical offence according to the common practice of the Senate of the Press Council. Nevertheless, journalists should consider whether it is necessary in a specific case for the understanding of the readers to lead the origin.
  • Have I considered whether my coverage / my choice of words / my photo selection could offend or offend someone?
  • Am I aware of the intentions of my whistleblower/research sources?
  • Can I open an Internet forum on the subject without fear of derailment?
  • Am I sure that I have no extra-journalistic reasons to pick up this topic?

In an effort to counter claims of biased reporting on migration, particularly from groups and individuals associated with right-wing online platforms that the public broadcaster (ORF) and other mainstream media are in effect “Luegenpresse” (lying press), the ORF produced a handbook titled On Flight & Quality Journalism in which a series of guest authors discussed reporting on migration[1].

The texts evaluate the degree to which the public broadcaster and other media have embraced ethical standards, including accuracy and balance, in their coverage. Foremost among the concerns raised was the need to combat ‘fake news’ which many authors feel leads to increasing mistrust of migrants, as well as the need to reach out to those groups isolated from mainstream migrant reporting.

The tendency towards “negative” reporting on migrants is linked to the fact that reporting does not include the voices of migrants. Although there is a good deal of reporting on alleged crimes committed by migrants, but rarely, especially in tabloid media, are there comprehensive interviews with migrants themselves.

Noteworthy exceptions were to be found, in particular, the ORF, whose guidelines help maintain civil and nuanced reporting, without resorting to excessive bias or editorial control. Although there are examples of editorial bias, neutral and objective reporting is far more prevalent than any other trend. Of particular importance is the bilingual youth radio station FM4 which maintained a professional pro-humanitarian approach that provides comprehensive coverage in terms of source, voices, aspects and solutions, as well as in-depth analysis.

This exception has been supported by quality reporting across Austrian broadsheet press, however not necessarily systematically. Often the subjective approach of journalists and the economic pressures facing media lead to a distorted view created by what is called “negative framing” (Bonfadelli, 2010, p.183). This also involves the use of negative, fear-inducing terms such as “flood of refugees”, and the focus on fear-inducing themes such as alleged violence and criminality.

Stereotypes of the “criminal foreigner” remain the norm in Austrian media. Several scholarly studies have shown repeatedly the negative treatment of migrants by the media, as for example, back in 2001 (Meier-Braun, 2001, p.126) Meier-Braun noted that a “media reality” is created that does not conform to “real reality”. This “media reality” suggests that “foreigners are more criminal, more lazy, and worse than national citizens – at least in the minds of … average citizens”.

The Austrian broadsheet newspapers, which are members of the Press Council, have covered migration in a more balanced and a less alarmist way than the tabloids. In the tabloid newspapers, almost all of the reporting on migration follows an alarmist political line in relation to crime, whereas in the broadsheets there is a high volume of reporting on culture linked to migration, for example, theatre productions put on by migrants.

Initially, in Austria, there was, especially in the broadsheet press, as well as in public media and private audio-visual networks a focus on welcoming refugees. But within months – and as a presidential election campaign began, in which the candidate of the far-right party, emphasised alleged links between migrants and crime and terrorism and presented them as a security threat – much of the press shifted into a mode that focused, particularly in tabloids, on the ‘threat’ presented by migrants. There was a failure to underscore the rights of refugees under international law and to distinguish between economic migrants and refugees fleeing brutal conflict in Syria.

The fact that the country’s three leading tabloids – the newspapers that are admonished more often than any others by the Press Council – refuse to be members or accept their rulings, makes it much more difficult for a common professional and ethical reporting line on sensitive issues and particularly on the issue of migration to be established at the level of newspapers and throughout the media.



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