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Media Coverage of Migration Based on International Law and Evidence - Journalist Guide [EN/AR]

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Manual and Guideline
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Executive summary

In recognition of the need to improve the media’s practitioner's to report on migration issues, this guide aims to be a resource for journalists to run interactive workshops, principally aimed at other journalists reporting on migration. The training will give participants an understanding of the regional and international context of migration, explain the terminology of migration, consider existing media coverage of migration, especially its ethical aspects. The guide also seeks to dispel key commonly held myths on migration, and present a primer on the international legal framework governing migration. The guide comprehensively covers all aspects needed to be considered by a journalist, from course content and practical exercises, best practices in pedagogy, as well as to such practical issues such as the selection of candidates, venues and equipment needed.

The training will be divided into several modules, each is designed to improve participants’ capacity in a key areas related to migration coverage in the media. The first module examines migration as a global phenomenon, and provides an overview of international migration. The module presents participants with data on the global phenomenon of migration. It dispels common myths on migration, explaining, for example, that, contrary to popular belief, approximately three quarters of global migrants are internal rather than international migrants, and that the latter are mostly migrant workers, members of their families and students.
The module also presents data on refugees, a term often used incorrectly by the general public, and sometimes as well as by the media. Although refugees enjoy a unique status under international law and are a particularly vulnerable category of migrants, as they have lost the protection of their country of origin or cannot benefit from it, fewer than 10 per cent of all international migrants are refugees. The evolution of the flux of migration is also presented, demonstrating that the migration flows we observe today often flowed in the opposite direction historically.

This guide includes a module on migration terminology, an area that is frequently misunderstood by the public, and by media professionals. The module proposes methods to measure the number of regular migrants – the majority of migrant population – and irregular migrants in a country. It emphasizes that, under international law, irregular migration should be decriminalized. It also provides participants with the knowledge to utilize the appropriate terminology to describe various categories of migrants, based on international law.

The guide also addresses widely held myths about the economic impact of migration. There is a commonly held belief that migrants impose economic costs on host countries, despite the prolific amount of evidence demonstrating that the contrary is true. The guide presents the findings of numerous other studies, demonstrating the net positive impact migrants have on the provision of social services and on public finances, and highlights empiric evidence that people consistently overestimate the number of migrants in their country and consistently underestimate the migrants’ level of education and economic contribution.

And the guide also includes a module to allow participants to analyze the depiction of migrants in the media. Photos and pictures of migrants in the media can have an enduring impact on public opinion, either positively or negatively. It is therefore imperative that photographers and editors consider the impact an picture is likely to have on the public discourse on migration. This highly interactive module allows participants to debate the merits of images showing migration, and offers a chance to analyze highly influential pictures, as well as the different ways photos can be depicted, deepening participants’ understanding of the power of pictures in shaping public opinion.

Migration is not an easy topic to cover. It is mired in complexity, opacity and the concerted effort of some, with a particular political agenda, to perpetuate myths and misconceptions. Challenges faced by journalists in covering migration, and methods to overcome them, are also addressed. The module presents, and dispels, common myths around migration. For example, there is a widely held belief that Europe and North America are disproportionately welcome refugees. The module further provides journalists with resources that can be utilized to access the most recent data on migration. Finally, the module provides guidance on the optimal steps for creating multimedia content on migration.

Best practices in migration journalism involve putting the individual first and giving migrants a voice. It also requires the careful and accurate use of terminology, prudent use of images, and care not to contribute to the reinforcement of stereotypes and myths. The final module provides suggestions on how the media can operate in a more responsible manner when they undertake migration coverage, which would entrail embracing evidence and international law, while rejecting sensationalism. Best practices in migration journalism involve putting the individual first and giving migrants a voice. It also requires the careful and accurate use of terminology, prudent use of pictures, and care not to contribute to the reinforcement of stereotypes and myths. It is hoped that this guide, and the trainings designed to utilize it, will contribute to more evidence- and human rights-based, ethical and responsible reporting on migration.