14th May 2016
By Stefanie Chernow

EJN, Press Council raise awareness about migration reporting

On May 13th the Ethical Journalism Network and the Indonesian Press Council hosted an event to debate how media coverage of migration and the use of graphic images with senior journalists from leading broadcasters, newspapers and online news outlets.

As well as presenting the findings of the EJN’s recent Moving Stories report, which reviewed how media in 14 countries plus the European Union, cover migration there was special screening of “Sea of pictures” a documentary about how the images of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian child who drowned trying to reach Europe, became shared so widely and became a symbol of the refugee crisis.

This film, and the debate afterward with the documentary’s producer, Misja Pekel, explored the ethics of using such images with interviewees including the photographer who took some of the know famous images, EJN director Aidan White and Human Rights Watch’s Peter Bouckaert, who played a key role in the dissemination of the images on social media.

In an article for Human Rights Watch about the image, Peter wrote:

I thought long and hard before I retweeted the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi. It shows the lifeless toddler, lying face down on a popular Turkish beach, one of eleven Syrians who have almost certainly died as they tried to reach safety in Europe by boarding a smuggler’s boat. Instead they ended up as the latest victims of Europe’s paltry response in the face of a growing crisis.

What struck me the most were his little sneakers, certainly lovingly put on by his parents that morning as they dressed him for their dangerous journey. One of my favorite moments of the morning is dressing my kids and helping them put on their shoes. They always seem to manage to put something on backwards, to our mutual amusement. Staring at the image, I couldn’t help imagine that it was one of my own sons lying there drowned on the beach.

Read the full article here: Dispatches: Why I Shared a Horrific Photo of a Drowned Syrian Child

Thousands of people from Africa and the Middle East have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe over the last two years. But most people only know the name of one; Aylan Kurdi.

On September 2, the photo of the Syrian toddler washed up on the beach in Bodrum, Turkey went viral on social media. A day later it was on the front page of newspapers worldwide. Since then media have called image ‘iconic’. Politicians and others have attempted to use the photograph for their own ends and to further their agendas. Supporters and opponents of a more generous refugee policy have also tried to embrace Aylan Kurdi as a symbol of their cause.

Over seven months on from Aylan Kurdi’s death, A Sea of Images, a documentary film by Dutch public broadcasting programme Media Logic, asks:

  • What is the significance of such an image in the refugee debate?
  • Why did this particular picture come to symbolise the refugee crisis?
  • Who was inspired by this? And who benefited from it?

The film explores both the ethical choices made by journalists that published the image as well as the impact it has had on policy and wider attitudes to migration.

The previous topics tackled by the Media Logic series include the role of the media in the Eurozone crisis which was nominated for the Prix Europa and ‘The World According to Russia Today’.

The Ethical Journalism Network and the Indonesian Press Council hope that the event will provide an opportunity for further debate on how migration, children and are dealt with in Indonesian media and what opportunities there to work together to improve coverage of this important subject.

The EJN’s Moving Stories report covers four countries in Asia:

For more on the report see:

Press Release | Foreword | Introduction | Recommendations