Media on both sides of the Mediterranean are under-resourced and unable to provide the time, money and appropriate level of expertise needed to tell the migration story in context, a new study reveals. Journalists are often poorly informed about the complex nature of migration. The newsrooms are vulnerable to pressure and manipulation by voices of hate, whether from political elites or social networks.
The Study, How Does the Media on Both Sides of the Mediterranean Report on Migration, goes deep in the newsrooms in 17 countries on both sides of the busiest migrant routes, to examine the ways journalists are approaching migration and the influences or the shortfalls that are shaping their reporting.
Migration is often a very polarising topic, which generates fear on the part of the media of appearing to pick a side on the issue. Incertitude does not, however, make for good coverage and solid reporting. We therefore strongly believe that there is a need to allow for balanced narratives on migration to emerge on both sides of the Mediterranean,
Michael Spindelegger, general director of International Centre for Migration Policy Development
Nine EU states: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Spain, Sweden as well as eight countries in the south of the Mediterranean: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia are covered by the research.
The study finds out that media in these countries has contributed to the perception that migration is a problem rather than a global phenomenon which creates both challenges and opportunities. It warns migration coverage is affected by the fake news phenomenon with even graver consequences because it concerns vulnerable people. Holistic approach in reporting is rarely seen although inspirational examples of journalism at its best are not an exception, the research shows. In general, journalists are striving to avoid reporting racist and extremist propaganda, although some journalists are relying on rumours and are exploiting the fears and the ignorance of the public.
EUROMED Migration IV, funded by the Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the EU, commissioned the Ethical Journalism Network to conduct this study for which 17 journalists are examining the quality of migration media coverage in 2015 and 2016 from a national perspective.
The study finds that the migration story is told mainly from two perspectives: emotional coverage of human loss; and fear that it could disrupt life in the host countries. Migrants are dominantly presented as either victims or criminals. Although the stories can have different approaches to migration, the voices of migrants are not often present, while journalists are focusing on the narrative created by national politicians.
Apart from political influence, self-censorship and lack of recourses are undermining well-researched and in-depth reporting. Much of the media writing and broadcasting is found to reflect political bias and is simplistic, superficial and often ill-informed.
The study recommends the creation of new programs to help journalists improve professional skills when reporting on migration. Promoting the best practices from countries like Lebanon and Jordan, where the migrant crisis is more acute could help media professionals, the study concludes. Media monitoring and strengthening special news and information resources are considered highly advisable.
The authors are suggesting that journalists specialised in migration should be working in the newsrooms alongside with migrants or people coming from migrant families both to give them a voice and to provide better understanding of the phenomenon. Promoting regional and national partnerships for coverage of migration could also improve the quality of reporting in this area.
The OPEN Media Hub will be presenting more key findings from How Does the Media on Both Sides of the Mediterranean Report on Migration in the coming weeks.