Migration coverage is still considered “second tier” of news reporting in Algeria. The migration debate is not part of the public discourse and remains neglected, a new study on media attitudes towards migration reveals.
Although the country has a long track record on successful integration of Sahrawi and Palestinian communities, the interest to the in-depth coverage of migration is not regular on Algerian media.
Despite of the efforts of different organisations, journalists and the authorities ‘too often migrants remain invisible men, women and children, whose opinions are not reported but who, nevertheless, may be subject of xenophobic articles and occasionally racist front pages’, the report How Does the Media on Both Sides of the Mediterranean Report on Migration discloses.
The study is examining the media attitudes towards migration phenomenon in the 17 European Neighbourhood countries and some EU member states. It was commissioned by the EUROMED Migration IV and funded by the Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the EU. The Ethical Journalism Network conducted the research in 2015 and 2016 throughout observations of 17 professional journalists.
Migration related topics in Algeria are often relegated to the other news sections and reporting is focused mainly on security, violence and the rising death toll in the Mediterranean Sea. The Report identifies also “apparent reluctance to move beyond clichés and racial stereotypes”.
Journalists are approaching the subject more often through the press-releases from the official institutions or the humanitarian or non-profit organisations like The Red Crescent or CNCPPDH (Commission Nationale Consultative pour la Protection et la Promotion des Droits de l’Homme, National Consultative Commission for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights), without questioning their content. They tend not to generate original information. As a result, migrants are often portrayed with prejudice. They are associated to criminal activities, trafficking and “transmission of illness” or pictured as victims of social inequalities and uncomfortable living conditions, the study observes.
Outside of the focus of the media and the society, the tensions between the migrants and the local people are mounting in time. The sense of denial in the Algerian society towards migrants even makes some media claim the migrants are to leave soon although the country has turned from transit to host destination for the newcomers from Sub-Saharan Africa, Syria, Libya and Yemen.
The report says there is no editorial consistency on the terminology related to migration and the quality of reporting is harmed by the repetitive use of photos showing migrants begging on the streets, crowded in trucks, ill or injured.
For journalists it is difficult to approach migrants and in certain areas even to take photos of them, the report drafted by an Algerian journalist says. Moreover, the media often have limited resources to go in the field to look for stories, and reporters need to be provided with training at least on the correct use of migration terminology.
However, in an effort to build a civil society network and “beyond the traditional media framework”, the migrant question is taken up by many Algerian activists and human rights groups. Signs of improvement are noticed also in the media, the study underlines.
“Far more than earlier years, certain media now encourage in-depth feature reporting”, the report says, and far more journalists, who received training, are trying to break the stigma surrounding the migrants in Algeria.
Another source of optimism are the heated debates in professional circles on the quality of reporting and among journalists and their superiors on handling of articles on migration.
Much more needs to be done, though, given the scope of the phenomenon. The study on migration coverage in Algeria recommends journalists, journalism students and editors-in-chief to undergo special training. It suggests the need to redefine media sources and work more closely with academics, NGOs and the Algerian authorities. The analysis considers creating room for discussion with local authorities which will make it easier to keep journalists informed and will provide them with more opportunities for direct access to migrants and their stories.
How Does the Media on Both Sides of the Mediterranean Report on Migration (Summary of the report)
Chapter on Algeria: Public Debate Needed to Confront Denial and Media Stereotypes
OMH article: Report: Migration Coverage in Tunisia Fails to Go Beyond Tales of Woe
See also: Covering Migration Creates Serious Challenges for Media Professionals, New Study Reveals