With Lebanese media mired in dysfunctional domestic politics, facing regional instability and international upheavals, it is not a surprise migration coverage has been very uneven, a new analysis on media attitudes towards migration in the Mediterranean detects.
The study How Does the Media on Both Sides of the Mediterranean Report on Migration 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 from 17 EU and EU neighboring policy countries.
Syrian migrants, fleeing from the war, have been flooding neighbouring Lebanon for seventh years in a row. Currently every second person living in the country is a foreigner. Syrians are over 1,5 million of the four million Lebanese population and it is clear that Syrian influence over country’s internal affairs is strong both in politics and the economy and in the media.
Migration has been covered constantly and intensively by all media. Contrary to some of the Maghreb countries where migration doesn’t top editorial agenda, the migration phenomenon receives good attention by the media, which covers wide range of issues from unregistered new-borns in the refugee tents, to children turned to breadwinners and forced to leave school, to the attitudes of the Lebanese to the newcomers.
However, the media in Lebanon is heavily divided by political, religious and economic influences and are often partisan, the report says.
Where examples of fair and balanced coverage of migrant-related issues exist, they seem to have been overshadowed by a proliferation of hate-mongering journalism”.
The coverage of migration focuses on politics, economics, aid and security, while emotional focus is dominating the news agenda when security and terrorism matters are at stake. International dignitaries and celebrities’ visits are the impetus for more human interest writing and broadcasting.
As with donor fatigue, there is refugee fatigue, so stories involving Syrians reflect the mood”, the study underlines.
The main professional challenges for journalists covering migration are coming from insufficient access to reliable information and statistics; political and economic interests, influencing the media; increasingly common hate speech and the shortage of migrants’ voices.
The report draws a grim picture of worsening working conditions for journalists in Lebanon. The level of competences and skills of journalists is undercut by staff redundancy, short deadlines and poor or irregular pay.
Falling advertising revenues and drastic budget cuts are driving journalists into multitasking. “In general, underpaid journalists don’t have fixed beats so reporters may cover different topics on a given day leaving little time to worry about the political correctness of choosing the right terms”, the report explains. Due to time constrains and limited resources journalists are increasingly reporting stories from their desks, skipping fieldwork.
Social media play increasingly visible and influential role in covering migration issues in Lebanon, the report shows. Online media is also attracting more readers by providing wider spectrum of content but comments are “fertile ground for exacerbating matters”, the study finds.
A tendency to “sensationalise and to use stereotypes ebbs and flows with the magnitude of the crisis” as well as mixing of news and opinion genres, especially on TV, have also been observed.
Report: How the Media on Both Sides of Mediterranean Report on Migration (Summary)
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