The story of migration attracts media attention in Palestine but is almost always being told in the context of Palestine’s own dramatic history, a new study on migration coverage in the Mediterranean discovers.
How Does the Media on Both Sides of the Mediterranean Report on Migration follows migration coverage attitudes of the media in 17 countries on both sides of the sea. The study is 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 and the refugee cases are broadly covered by all Palestinian media,
the reports says, adding journalists are highly competent and experienced and a common methodology in covering of the topic is shared by the editorial teams of most media.
The suffering of migrants and refugees is seen in the context of the split of the country in 1948 and direct comparison between current and history events is often.
The report is referring to an Alhayah Aljadida newspaper publication where photos of women refugees on the Greek Aegean Islands hanging out laundry were paralleled with similar archive images from Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in the 40’s. Stories of migrants’ day-to-day difficulties have been directly compared with the problems of the 700 000 Palestinians, who had to leave their homes during the 1948 war.
The peak of media coverage came in the first half of 2016 during the mass movements of Syrians to Europe. Since then the coverage has fallen but is still significant, the study says.
Some newspapers like Alayyam, are publishing articles or photos of refugees on their front pages almost daily. Reports on migration issues in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are also widely covered.
The interest to emigration is also notable with numerous stories of young Palestinians dreaming to leave the country in search of better life, or of residents of the West Bank, forced to seek refuge abroad. Interest to the life of the Palestinian diaspora in Europe and in Latin America is also present but the media preference here is dominated by the success stories of expatriates or of their financial support for relatives in Palestine.
Media sticks to two main narratives with coverage of migration: picturing migrants as victims in emotional human-interest stories, or facts-based reporting.
Although the coverage of migration is “plentiful and continual”, the lack of independent sources of information and own foreign correspondents in the hotspots harm the quality of reporting, the study points. Journalists are relying mainly on international media for the newsfeeds and statistics on migration.
Due to financial constrains none of the main Palestinian newspapers, Palestine TV, local radio stations or news agencies is present in Syria, Lebanon or in Europe.
Access to reliable data and statistics, political and economic influence, hate speech and stereotypical portraying of migrants are signaled by the report as the main challenges for Palestinian media professionals.
The role played by political and economic interests in the newsrooms is critical and many political parties and social movements exert a powerful influence, the report argues.
Migration news is reported selectively in the party TV channels, which according to the study “often reflect political bias”.
Depending on affiliation, media develop different approaches to the war in Syria and the refugee crisis. Media tend to stereotype current refugees from Syria, Libya or Iraq negatively highlighting their “suffering, weakness and agonized faces”. At the same time, Palestinian refugees in Europe or in Latin America are portrayed as successful investors “well mannered, strong and smiling, with relaxed expression”.
These stereotypes give an impression of the Palestinian migrant displaced from his home with two faces – that of the image of a freedom fighter alongside the image of suffering, pain and hardship.
Hate speech is another infection spreading in the media, the report points out. The Press and Publication law regulates the print media, but leaves the broadcasters and social media out of its scope. No codes of conduct or charters to self-regulate TV exist, the study underlines, advocating for their quick adoption.
Social media needs special attention as it influences news coverage and even political decisions in Palestine. The country is one of world leaders in terms of Facebook subscribers.
“Few communities on social media have such a big impact on media coverage as in Palestine”, the report says. Even some of the authorities’ decisions or actions in assisting migrants are hastened by social media. However, it is the social media activists and not the media, that are often to be blamed for “stirring up migration issue as a provocation”, the study on media attitudes towards migration argues.
Report: How the Media on Both Sides of Mediterranean Report on Migration (Summary)
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