A detailed study by an ecumenical group accuses European media of maintaining a “pattern of invisibility” for refugees and migrants. The 12-month study, Changing the Narrative: Media Representation of Refugees and Migrants in Europe, by the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) and the World Association for Christian Communication – Europe region (WACC Europe), found that individual references to a refugee or migrant only appear in one fifth of news items on asylum and migration.
“This points to a pattern of invisibility that creates a clear divide between the policies being discussed at the political level and the effects of those policies on people,” the report says.
The research involved media monitoring in seven European countries: Greece, Italy, Spain, Serbia, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway. It said that, of the 21 per cent of the news items that reference migrants or refugees, less than half (40 per cent) of the articles quoted them directly.
“Direct quotes are the most accurate way to represent people, while inaccuracy of representation can easily lead to misunderstanding,” the report says. “Refugees and migrants are most often only identified by their ‘displacement’: When media does not go beyond the refugee label, and when the public tacitly accepts refugee as an occupation, people are deprived of their humanity and dignity.”
In a joint foreword, the president of WACC Europe, Stephen Brown, and the general secretary of CCME, Doris Peschke, said: “As organisations committed to communication rights and refugee rights, we believe that the voices of refugees and migrants themselves need to be heard in the media to better inform the public debate. WACC Europe and CCME believe that the representation of refugees and migrants in the media both reflect and contribute to public attitudes.”
The report makes a number of recommendations. For media professionals and news organisations, it says that they should adhere to the five core principles of ethical journalism: accuracy, independence, impartiality, humanity and accountability.
And it says that the media should include more individual refugees and migrants in stories on refugee and migration issues, and use more direct quotes from refugees and migrants.
- Click here to download the full report, or summaries in Spanish, German, French and Arabic.