As Europe tightens its borders, media’s role on migration coverage becomes crucial
However, it has not just been voters but also Dutch mainstream media that have expressed ‘popular opinions’ presenting migrants as a helpless minority, and criminals. There does not seem to be an appreciation of the difference between the terms immigrant, refugee or asylum seeker. Here are some examples:
Witnessing these worrying development, Media4Change decided to ring the changes on the way the media across Europe represent migrants through itsVoice4Migrants project, funded by Europe for Citizens programme.
Media experts and activists from anti-racist and refugee support groups across Europe were brought together to develop strategies to foster dialogue on integration policies and the reception of refugees in European countries, and to assist in European citizens to develop counter-narratives to hate speech.
“Only 8% of the population are migrants, but their crimes are being reported 100%.”
As part of this process, the Voice4Migrants team is devising techniques to encourage others to take on the task of challenging the negative stereotypes that have developed around migrations.
One of the events, a Traveling exhibition of non-stereotypical headlines will go on display in the capitals of Lithuania and Hungary. During a strategic planning workshop, a group of journalists and media experts analyzed problematic headlines from all around Europe and identified the most recurrent pattern of stereotypes which hinder impartial depiction of migrants in media.
They have since been rewriting them to demonstrate an alternative way of telling the story without pandering to prejudice.
Ralph du Long pointed out that the most common misrepresentation of migrants is to associate them with crime, and especially as rapists and sexual predators. He explained that their task was to re-imagine some of the most offensive headlines to change the narrative and open up a space for dialogue and understanding between migrants, journalists, and the public. One of the re-written headlines read: “Only 8% of the population are migrants, but their crimes are being reported 100%.”
“The voice of the migrants will be without filters. They will be able to tell their own story”
The Voice4Migrants project will also include an opening of a ‘Migrants Library’ in the Hungarian parliament in Budapest in June 2019. It will provide migrants with a unique opportunity to speak face-to-face with politicians and share their stories with them. They will participate as ‘living books’ in a safe space where they can tell their stories and answer questions.
The 4-hour-long Human Library will be an opportunity not just for politicians, but also for the wider community, to meet the real people whose lives have so often been misrepresented in the media and political discourse.
Francesco Lisciandra president of Trepuntozero NGO and implementor of the Human Library in Italy commented about the planned event: “The Migrant Library is a very powerful tool to give migrants voice and to overcome discrimination and stereotypes. The voice of the migrants will be without filters. They will be able to tell their own story and make the people meet and talk without the interference of media or political party.”