When my bus to Brussels arrived at Gare du Nord, I looked outside. In a park, not so far from the station, hundreds of refugees mainly male were sitting and waiting. What they were waiting for? Food, jobs, integration? I can’t tell.
From a different culture, languages and economic state, the waves of migrants create a complex integration problem. So yes, my girlfriend and I don’t dare to walk alone in this new area. For which reason? We don’t feel secure.
Even with a lot of goodwill, I keep this feeling. I blamed the media for this. Indeed they shaped the public opinion, mine included. After some reflexions and researches, they are not the only ones to take the blame. Here it’s why.
THE REFUGEE’S SITUATION
While we are experiencing one of the longest peace in Europe, civil war and terrifying events still occur in the Middle East and Africa. Each tiny second, someone in the world must leave his home because of war of fear of persecution.
Lucky us, we reached a new record! According to the UNHCR, we experience the highest level of population displacement in all human history. The Spanish conquistadors or the Romans should have learned from us…
We count more than 68.5 million people forced to leave their home. Imagine the entire French population which must go to Asia leaving behind all their belongings and house.
Nowadays refugees crisis is an issue which concerns not only politics or humanitarian communities. Economically, culturally and politically, it concerns all of us.
SOME MEDIA DO THEIR JOB
The migrations in Europe and refugees’ situations, those last two years have been highly reported by the media. It seems that media do their job! That’s great news. Indeed media are still a bridge which separates real information to the public opinion. They make a complex story understood to the public. Moreover, they can raise thoughts and actions.
Because only one picture can gather millions of souls to help and donate. We need the media. The tragic death of Aylan Kurdi for example (the picture of the child laying down dead on a beach in Turkey) has risen a lot of debates and actions in favour of the refugee’s situation. I remember: two weeks later, it was almost a trend to give toys and clothes for children’s refugees.
In Europe, we have been crowded with information. Was it really effective? We see so much that we may think about a « normal » situation. Another boat sunk in the Mediterranean Sea has become common and not reported anymore…
While we are experiencing the largest refugee crisis in a generation, the rest of the world still doesn’t provide minimum funds to help refugees. After 3 years of Syrian war for example, according to the United Nations, refugees’ camps are still underfunded. For the director of the Ethical Journalism Network, all the articles about the Syrian war were not helpful. No monetary help is coming…Thousands of tweets, shares, comments and debate raise thoughts but don’t change a deeply rooted situation. Locals won’t receive basic help (a shelter, food and a proper education).
What if another terrifying dead child picture isn’t enough ?
Journalists reported a lot about the Syrian tragedy without great results. Other populations from everywhere are as well looking for asylum (Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala,). Events request public interest, but media don’t cover them. What’s happening in Yemen for example, the second largest humanitarian crisis… There more than 21 million people (almost twice the population of Belgium) suffer from daily bombardments, rebellion and insecurity.
Media can’t report everything due to a lack of journalists on the field. On military locations, journalists are an easy target and need protection to report on those atrocities. A lack of interest from the public doesn’t influence the media to put journalists at risk.
OTHER MEDIA DON’T HAVE CHOICES
Media shape the public opinion. A message which blames refugees can have an impact on how residents integrate and welcome them. While the economic shape of Europe is not as its best, isolationist and xenophobic ideas emerge. In this atmosphere, some media go along with anti-migrant ideas. They skip sharing true and well-researched facts… Let’s understand how journalist joined the dark side…
THE MEDIA SITUATION
A big and disparate sector, the media industry faces the Internet swift. Newspaper, radio, television, so many business models are nowadays at risk. It requests some changes in the content. I see two big media types,
1. Subsided Media
Those media are dependent on the political party at the top. According to the Ethical Journalism Network, those media are manipulated by political leaders. Media doesn’t tell all the story but they fail into the propaganda laid by politicians. They accept too often outrageous statements. No big choices when your employer is Trump or Erdoğan…
Each western nation has its own speech,
- In Oceania (not really impacted by the refugees’ incoming waves), refugees and asylum seekers are frequently linked to words like problems, Arabic and violence (terrorism, conflict, rapes, thieves). The misuse of words tends to create a gap in the public opinion. We differentiate us and them, the residents and the newcomers…
- In the United States, the Republican Party of Trump has made immigration a great topic. Media shares sometimes racist messages which destroy the work of some good journalists… Media portrayed refugees as enemies at the borders. A study from Western University showed that refugee arrivals are referred to as a kind of uncontrolled and unpredictable force of nature. Media use metaphors like swarms of refugees, pouring over borders and camps overflowing. Those portrayals include suggestions that those new immigrants represent a problem (terrorists who try to invade western countries, poor people with diseases and infections).
- In Europe, media struggle to provide a full problem coverage especially when hate-speech politics announced that they’ll establish walls or that would accept only Christian migrants. According to the WACC report, in only 3% of cases, migrants and refugees are presented as an expert and with high status. 43% of the articles don’t mention refugee or migrant’s occupation. It creates an image of incompetent newcomers… The same report showed that women are disproportionately absent from the European news on refugees and migrants. On all people mentioned in the news articles, only 6% were refugee women.
- In Turkey, a key location to enter in Europe, the governmental control of media has reached a peak. Government under Erdoğan punishes journalists which might not follow the ideas of the party. A debate about immigration is then limited…
2. Private media
Those media directed as capitalist companies don’t have much more freedom of speech. Their main goal is not to be informative, but to make money out of it… Each media has a batch of shareholders waiting for their yearly dividends. Top-level decision makers control what it’s going to be said or written.
Those media pretend to sell entertainments and information. In reality today, their only sustainable business model is the advertisement. So journalists focus on catchy titles and shocking pictures. On social media, they must convince people with three sentences and one picture. Doing so, the reader can end up on their website and eventually click on an ad (the only way for the journalist to pay his bread). That’s why we see mainly children dying of starvation… Other disasters that deserve our attention are uncovered because there is no real buzz or click-bait to make. It is all about sensationalism.
Ely Bahhadi, a Syrian refugee and student in Journalism advised journalists to listen carefully refugees’ story. They should emphasise the whole story and not be selective to one certain story. Unfortunately for journalists, they have only 140 characters to attract and then one-page maximum to tell an interesting story…
Readers are now using (excessively?) the Internet and social media to inform and entertain themselves. Even if their revenue has immensely decreased since 1990, the media still have an impact on us. We do consume media and information. We just consume them for free and online. In this new shift, media is a poor economical actor. How many young people do you know would choose to let their Netflix subscription for a LeSoir or De Standaard monthly fee?
To be a poor industry means a lot in term of quality of information. You can’t afford the same journalists. I invite you the read the article of the David Gross « What I learned about the media after photographing Syrian refugees ». It represents well how it’s complicated for journalists to find funds and create nice content.
Media are in a difficult situation. We request a lot from them (create a good image of the refugees and well-researched articles). In return, we give only a few pennies.
For many the intentions of the journalist are honourable. The problem’s that with no real power and income, the media become dependent. They need to convince advertisers to pay for fewer readers. Quite hard today when Washington Post, DeStandaard or New York Times have as direct competitors Facebook and Google… They need to satisfy extremist politicians that we have voted for…
Media can still conduct thoughts and minds in a specific direction. That’s why the craft of journalism has to be taken seriously.
A refugee is a traumatised person who had left his country because of fear or persecution. It doesn’t mean that those refugees are incapable of helping themselves and can’t be helpful to the western society. We gave refugees the « poor, homeless, in need » label. To my point of view, integration would be easier if a refugee is not associated with trauma and suffers but as a real person with experience and expertise.
If we don’t want to connect with them or help (financially) them, the blame has to be shared among all of us, refugees and migrants included. I’m responsible for not helping those people ten streets away from my apartment. Those guys next the station are responsible to create fear when they look at my girlfriend like a piece of meat. No, European girls are not porn…
As a digital nomad, I’m a migrant too (with far more privileges I realize it). Our nations have been built on migration. Migration is not the problem. It’s the adaption the problem. To every country, I go to I try to adapt, learn the languages and connect with locals. None would have opened their doors if I acted like a stupid egocentric westerner that I used to be…
UNESCO (2018). Media and migration: covering the refugee crisis. URL: https://en.unesco.org/news/media-and-migration-covering-refugee-crisis
Alia Dharssi, Francesca Fionda (2018). How the Media Can Better Listen to Refugees — Refugees Deeply. URL: https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/community/2018/06/20/how-the-media-can-better-listen-to-refugees
The Ethical Journalism Network (2011). Moving Stories — International Review of How Media Cover Migration — Foreword. URL: https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/moving-stories-international-review-of-how-media-cover-migration
BBC Radio (2016). Robin Esser; reporting migration; Formula 1; stories of 2016. URL: https://soundcloud.com/bbc-media-show/robin-esser-reporting
The UN Refugee Agency (2018). Figures at a glance. URL: http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html
WACC (2017). Changing the Narrative: Media Representation of refugees and migrants in Europe. URL: http://www.refugeesreporting.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Changing_the_Narrative_-_Executive_Summary_EN.pdf
University of Western Ontario (2013). Study shows media play role in dehumanizing immigrants and refugees. URL: https://phys.org/news/2013-09-media-role-dehumanizing-immigrants-refugees.html
The Guardians (2015). Where media fails on the reporting of migrants and refugees. https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2015/dec/17/where-media-fails-on-the-reporting-of-migrants-and-refugees
Greenbank Emily (2017). Refugees in the media: Villains and victims. URL: http://www.languageonthemove.com/refugees-in-the-media-villains-and-victims/
David Gross (2017). What I learned about the media after photographing Syrian refugees. URL: https://www.centerforhealthjournalism.org/resources/lessons/what-i-learned-about-media-after-photographing-syrian-refugee-children