Media and Trafficking in Human Beings Guidelines was authored by the Ethical Journalism Network as part of a project funded by the European Union and implemented by an international consortium led by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). © 2017. Republished with permission. 


Media coverage of human trafficking can be structured to ensure that there is context, compassion and professionalism in all aspects of editorial coverage. In particular, newsrooms should ensure that journalists:

Understand public policy on trafficking.A variety of social, economic and political problems make people vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. These include migration rules, poverty, racial and gender discrimination, state corruption,and inadequate laws and poor enforcement of regulations. Journalists should be aware of these conditions.

Examine public policy related to people’s rights under international standards of access to safe and secure travel arrangements under international law as well as the freedom to seek residential rights and access to the labour market in destination countries;

Monitor countries, both destination and countries of origin, to investigate whether there are systems in place to identify trafficking and to examine whether there are provisions to ensure the protection and rehabilitation of trafficked children and adults at national level;

Establish good working relations with groups working to combat trafficking,forced labour, modern slavery, and abuse of the rights of children.7 Often there is a disconnection between journalists and advocacy groups. Some groups are reluctant to publicise the
shocking facts of under-reported forms of trafficking or forced labour (for example,by giving journalists access to victim interviews). When better connections are made, it also helps to solve the problem caused by a lack of reliable research and data available to journalists, material that is critical to shaping a story.

Building trust: Media and NGOs can work together without compromising editorial independence or jeopardising the integrity of assistance projects or the dignity of people who are victims of trafficking.

Build internal capacity. Ensure reporters have adequate editorial time for research and examination of information related to trafficking and invest in investigative journalism. Organise internal newsroom briefings on human trafficking issues. Establish hotlines and systems to deal with audience information including complaints on trafficking,migration and modern slavery issues;

Contribute to improving data collection and information exchange on human trafficking, forced labour and irregular migration by working closely with public authorities and international agencies, particularly in providing information on numbers of victims of trafficking;

Develop focused campaigns on trafficking and related issues to raise public awareness. Such editorial initiatives can also reinforce public trust in journalism.Some good examples of where the media’s engagement with this issue has delivered powerful journalism include the Freedom Project from CNN and Aljazeera’s Slavery: A 21st Century Evil campaign.

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC: Peter Haden (2014)

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC: Peter Haden (2014)

Main image: cover images courtesy of Flickr CC: Peter Haden (2014), US Department of Agriculture (2013), Rob Waddington (2014), Esther Vargas (2012)


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