Director’s Letter: April 2015

Dear Friends,

The headlines this month have all been focused on the continuing tragedy of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean. This is a story that resonates around the world and will be the focus of the EJN’s next global survey on the ethical challenges facing media reporting on people crossing borders and continents to escape poverty, war or humanitarian calamity.

The migration story is told by journalists and media from different standpoints – from countries receiving visitors and from the countries they leave behind. All of them come under pressure to play a tune that suits political interests.

But sometimes media themselves are to blame. This month there was a shocking example of this in an article by Katie Hopkins, a columnist in Britain’s biggest-selling tabloid The Sun newspaper, who called migrants “cockroaches,” a term of abuse used by Nazis and the architects of genocide in Rwanda. The column was roundly condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. See the EJN response here.

This sort of intolerance is particularly dangerous because it reinforces public concerns which can mutate into intense hatred. With a widespread public consensus against migration, media have to be wary of adding to the propaganda of extremist political groups who try to make migrants – whether they are seeking asylum from political tyranny or just seeking a better life – the scapegoats for all of society’s ills.

The need for media to apply careful, sensitive journalism to this assignment has never been greater. Our upcoming report will assess how journalists and media are performing in this field. The report will be prepared over the next six months and will cover more than 30 countries.

This month has also been taken up with housekeeping and preparation of a busy schedule of activity for the coming months. We have held meetings in Brussels and Oslo.

EJN voices were also prominent in meetings in South Africa where the Congress of the Organisation of News Ombudsmen was held in Cape Town from March 21 to 24 and where EJN Board member Chris Elliott also took part in a panel at a seminar to discuss hate-speech and to promote the EJN Turning the Page of Hate Campaign.

On April 25-26 Ross Biggam, the Director of the Association for Commercial Television, took the floor on behalf of the EJN at the Aljazeera Forum in Doha to highlight our work in combatting hate speech in media across the Middle East and Europe.

The EJN programme in Palestine has also got off the ground with an opening event in Hebron on March 23 and with more seminars planned in the coming two months in Jenin, Nazareth and Ramallah.

As usual, keep up to date with EJN activity on the website where you will find our reports, videos and newsletters. Follow us on Twitter (@EJNetwork). More information on all of the issues set out here is available from me at [email protected].