Muslims in the media:
Towards more tolerance and diversity
In support of actions recognizing the value of inclusion and pluralism at all levels of the news gathering process, media organisations should:
- Support diversity training for journalists and media managers that includes raising awareness of the origins, history and customs of different religious traditions.
- Ensure there is a newsroom understanding of Islam and the different branches of the Muslim faith. This is vital to informed reporting of Muslim affairs. Of particular importance is raising awareness of the role of women and the tenets of the Muslim faith in practice.
- Create newsrooms and media staffing profiles that are diverse and reflect the media audience including the employment of qualified staff from a Muslim background.
- Listen and give voice to the Muslim community by developing contacts at all levels. Officials sources of information are important, but so too are voices on the ground. Media should develop contact with religious leaders, Imams, for example, and not just those designated as press officers. But also consider alternative and diverse voices like Muslim scientists, activists and advocates both men and women, but also youth.
- Develop specific editorial projects aimed at creating new narratives, exploring diversity within the Muslim community itself and promoting inter-faith dialogues.
- Prepare and make available editorial guidelines that give precise and appropriate definitions of terms and language on reporting of migration and terrorism and, in particular, terms used to describe aspects of Islamic scripture and Muslim practice – including, for example, Sharia Law, jihad, Ramadan, fatwa, etc. Agree neutral and accurate terms for reporting migration and terrorism.
- Support inter-faith dialogues and organize discussions with media and journalists who specialise in representing faith groups as well as discussions with secular media.
- Whether reporting migration, terrorism or Muslim affairs in general journalists should always keep a sense of proportion and report in context and adopt a global perspective.
- Journalists must be careful in the words they use and the images they show, avoiding inflammatory comment and use of explicit images of violence and suffering.
- In particular, journalists should:
- Avoid speculation and attributing responsibility for acts of terrorism without verified information.
- Avoid playing into the hands of terrorists by only making links to the Islamic religion in their stories when it is strictly relevant. Media rarely mention religion if a terrorist happens to be Christian and routine references to Muslim connections without clear links can inadvertently help terrorists set the agenda.
- Avoid exaggeration or sensationalism and recognise that often terrorism as an act of violence provokes a fear that is disproportionate to the actual level of risk.
- Media should avoid a rush to publish and recognise that the moment when the public demand for information is at its strongest, and when social networks are most active, is when the audience is most in need of reliable, accurate and sensitive reporting.
- Media should provide training for reporting migration and strengthen fact-based discourse to challenge disinformation.
- Media should report in context, steer clear of stereotypes and political bias and provide accurate background information that helps people better understand the causes of migration and the potential long-term benefits.
- Newsrooms should establish good working relations with international organisations dealing with the rights of migrants, including the International Organisation on Migration, the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as well as with local NGOs and migrant support groups.
- Journalists should have access to guidelines on the terms and vocabulary of migration including information on international conventions and refugee rights, and what terms to use while covering refugee stories.
- Some detailed guidelines on reporting migration, as well as guidelines on Media and Trafficking in Human Beings have been produced by the Ethical Journalism Network.
Combating hate speech
- Media should develop specific guidelines on combating hate speech and reporting on minorities including information on national legal conditions, international conventions.
- Editorial glossaries to combat stereotyping and outlining acceptable and unacceptable words and phrases should also be prepared to avoid the proliferation of offensive language that is an obstacle to dialogue and mutual respect.
- Journalists should be reminded that although robust and even offensive speech cannot be censored just because someone says something outrageous doesn’t make it newsworthy.
- Journalists and media should adopt the Ethical Journalism Network 5-point text for hate speech (See Panel) to help journalists and media identify and isolate hateful communications designed to incite hatred or violence.
- Media organisations and journalists should support internal and industry-wide structures for self-regulation of journalism, such as Press Councils, and insist that codes of conduct and guidelines dealing with non-discrimination should highlight media standards related to religious freedom, refugee and migration issues.
- Policymakers, that is those who have the authority and power to set a policy framework within organisations or governments, and civil society groups who advocate, with a certain amount of influence, on public rights, particularly those supporting minorities and the Muslim community, should recognise the importance of journalism and value-based communications in creating a reliable, trustworthy and pluralist public information landscape.
- Policymakers should examine how to support journalists in their efforts to report independently and effectively on all aspects of community life. This should include
- Creating better access to public information
- Considering forms of support for investigative journalism and public interest reporting without interfering with editorial independence
- Developing new information policies that will enhance the status of journalism within society at large and will promote core values of journalism (accuracy, inclusiveness, humanity and transparency) at all levels of public communications;
To Civil Society
- NGOs working with migrants and minority communities, including Muslim groups, should establish working relations with media and journalists on how best to improve lines of communication, how to ensure transparency and better understanding about their needs.
- Media and NGOs should work together to develop new media initiatives that will strengthen public knowledge of Muslim communities and other groups from different most often minority faiths and cultures.
Muslims in the Media: Towards More Tolerance and Diversity
© 2019 Ethical Journalism Network
11 Vicarage Road, London, E15 4HD United Kingdom
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. The contents of this book are covered by authors’ rights and further use of the contributions will be granted after consultation with the Editor under the conditions of Creative Commons.
Previous EJN publications include:
- Censorship in the park: Turkish media trapped by politics and corruption (2013)
- Innocent mistakes: A controversial film finds journalism caught between image and reality (2013)
- Hate speech: A five-point test for journalists (2014)
- Untold stories: How corruption and conflicts of interest stalk the newsroom (2015)
- The trust factor: An EJN review of journalism and self-regulation (2015)
- Moving stories: International review of how media cover migration (2015)
- Ethics in the News: EJN report on challenges for journalism in the “post-truth” era (2017)
- Trust in ethical journalism: The key to media futures (2018)
- ‘Saving the News: Ethics and the Fight for the Future of Journalism’ (2019)
For all of our previous reports see: https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/resources/publications