‘Mixed messages: Media coverage of migration and fatalities’, by Aidan White and Ann Singleton(36), was originally published as a chapter in ‘Fatal Journeys – Volume 3 – PART 1 – Improving Data on Missing Migrants’. Copyright: IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre GMDAC 2017. Re-published with permission.
Developing good practices and monitoring media
In many countries, journalists’ groups and media keen to strengthen media coverage on migration have been developing codes and standards on migration and related issues. One of the best examples is in Italy, a front-line State receiving thousands of desperate refugees, where media have developed a purpose-built charter against discrimination for journalists (See Panel 2).
This particular initiative has allowed media and journalists to play more of a direct role in improving the flow of information regarding refugees and has opened up a channel for media to create links with other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on migration and antiracism issues.
Such links can be useful in helping to alleviate one important aspect of the migration tragedy that does not figure often in media coverage concerning the unknown fate of the victims of drowning in the Mediterranean.
According to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (https://missingmigrants.iom.int/), almost 15,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe in just over three years (since 2014), and in most of these cases, the bodies remain unidentified and their families are left not knowing if missing relatives are dead or alive. When bodies are identified, it is usually by relatives coming to where bodies are kept before burial, but an information gap between the countries of origin and the incidents of shipwreck and the fact that many of the most vulnerable migrants when they are found do not have documents that clearly identify them poses an enormous challenge to efforts to trace their families and inform them of the loss (Mediterranean Missing Project: www.mediterraneanmissing.eu).
The IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, which tracks deaths of migrants and those who have gone missing along migratory routes across the globe, aims to bridge this gap.
This research initiative began following shipwrecks off the island of Lampedusa in Italy in 2013, in which nearly 400 migrants died. Since then, the Missing Migrants Project has developed into an important hub of data and information, which is used widely by media, policymakers and researchers.