The big question: Is there a better way of reporting migration?


Nairobi, October 2016 — The German Foreign Office is sponsoring a conference in Nairobi on media coverage of migration. The event will also be used to launch the results of a comparative analysis of media coverage of migration issues in 12 African and European countries.

The November 28-29 conference will serve “to present a new African-European project in the field of journalism education: Journalism in a Global Context, according to its organizers, African Media Initiative, Africa Positive e.V., and Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism TU Dortmund University, Germany.

Discussions will focus on, among other issues, Migration and the Role of the African Media; Problems in African Media of Covering Migration; and Journalism Education – Key to Better Migration Coverage.

Among the scheduled speakers is Eric Chinje, AMI’s chief executive office, who will deliver the keynote address on Migration and the Role of the African Media. The other listed speakers are:

  • Dr. Susanne Fengler, Director, Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism, TU Dortmund University.
  • Veye Tatah, Chairwoman and Chief Editor, Africa Positive
  • Dr. Markus Behmer, Institute for Communication, University Bamberg.

Media coverage of migration around the world has raised concerns around issues of factual accuracy, biased or insensitive reporting, loaded language and generalizations. Last month, the Ethical Journalism Network launched what it called New guidelines for migration reporting. The Network’s board member, Chris Elliot, who helped develop the guidelines, is quoted on EJN’s site as saying: “Never has there been a greater need for fair, cool and measured reporting of the issues of migration. These five basic principles form a simple set of guidelines for reporters around the world.”

The guidelines

  1. Facts not bias: Are we accurate and have we been impartial, inclusive and fact-based in our reporting?
  2. Know the law: Asylum seeker? Economic migrant? Refugee? Victim of trafficking? Do we understand the terms and communicate the national and international legal rights of immigrants to our audience?
  3. Show humanity: Humanity is at the essence of ethical journalism. But we must keep our emotions in check, avoid victimization, oversimplification and framing of coverage in a narrow humanitarian context that takes no account of the bigger picture.
  4. Speak for all: Do we have migrant voices? Are we listening to the communities they are passing through or joining? Question who representative self-appointed community and migrant spokespeople really are.
  5. Challenge hate: Have we avoided extremism? Have we taken the time to judge whether inflammatory content about migrants or those who seek to limit migration can lead to hatred? Words like “swarms” “floods” and “waves” should be treated with caution, as should indiscriminate use of “racism” and “xenophobia”.