This is a Chapter of the Study “How does the media on both sides of the Mediterranean report on migration?” carried out and prepared by the Ethical Journalism Network and commissioned in the framework of EUROMED Migration IV – a project, financed by the European Union and implemented by ICMPD. © European Union, 2017.
- Media coverage is vital to shaping people’s opinions on migration and the plight of refugees and asylum seekers;
- Undue political influence, self-censorship inside newsrooms and a prevailing lack of resources hampers the preparation of in-depth, well-researched editorial needed for reporting in context;
- As a result much of the media coverage of migration reflects political bias and is superficial, simplistic and often ill-informed;
- The migration story follows two media narratives: Emotional and highly-charged reporting on the plight of migrants as victims with almost daily human interest focus on tragic events and The story of numbers, and the potential threat migrants pose to the security, welfare and cultural standing of host communities;
- Media coverage tends at first to project and reflect empathy, solidarity and goodwill towards migrants fleeing war zones or those who are victims of tragic events, but in time, the tone changes to become more concerned and even hostile towards migrant communities through the use of stereotypes or a negative focus on crime, threats of terrorism and anti-social behaviour;
- The language of reporting is often laced with hate-speech and loose language, talk of “waves”, “invasions” or “tides” and ignorance of the correct terminology to describe migrants, refugees, displaced persons and their status;
- Media coverage has a strongly national focus, with a lack of detailed reporting on the context and complexities of migration, or reflection on wider social and political issues affecting both sides of the Mediterranean;
- Media staff at all levels are often ill-equipped and inadequately trained in migration reporting. Often they work in precarious conditions and there is a reliance on badly-paid freelance workers;
- Media struggle to provide balanced coverage when political or community leaders at national or regional level respond with a mix of panic and prejudice to the movement of migrants and refugees across national borders;
- In a majority of the countries covered by the study media fail to give adequate voice to migrants themselves and often media reporting relies too heavily on single, official sources of information. Often there are problems of access to reliable data on migration numbers and conditions.
- Some countries of North Africa, formerly major transit points for people moving from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East are becoming host countries, but this development is not adequately monitored and covered by media;
- In most countries the longer-term focus on migration questions such as connection with the national diaspora or the impact of remittances has been obscured by the media focus on the recent crisis, nevertheless in some countries these remain present on the editorial agenda;
- Social media and online sources often influence media coverage and encourage a “rush to publish” through the dissemination of rumour, speculation and alarmist information that feeds fear and ignorance among the public at large.
- Most media strive to avoid reporting racist and extremist propaganda relating to migration, but some journalists are concerned that this may inhibit reporting on the often legitimate fears of people living in host communities;
- There is an urgent need for new initiatives, including new forms of public funding and support, to help media to better explain the process of migration, its role in human history and its contribution to national and regional development;
- Policymakers, community leaders and people in the public eye have a role to play to promote a civil public discourse and to eliminate hate-speech, intemperate language and provocative actions that exploit fears and uncertainty within society at large.