Making refugees’ voices heard and listened to

Photo: Creative Commons

Since March 2017, I have had the opportunity, and the pleasure, to work on the Refugees Reporting project with WACC and CCME (Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe). Refugees Reporting is aimed at promoting refugees' communications rights to speak on their own behalf, to have adequate space in the news and to be listened to. The project combines the expertise on communications rights of WACC and the expertise on refugees’ and migrants’ rights of CCME.

A major part of Refugees Reporting has been a media monitoring exercise, which was conducted in 8 European countries and largely benefited from the expertise, network and methodology of WACC's Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP). Adapting the gender monitoring exercise to the issue of refugees' representation in the news, and the global lens to the smaller European one, we were able to analyse a large number of articles from printed newspapers, online newspapers and Twitter feeds.

The media monitoring, which consists of a quantitative analysis – to give an objective assessment of the status of the representation of refugees in the news – and a qualitative analysis – to identify good and bad practice examples – was carried out between the end of May and June in Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Serbia, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway by groups of engaged volunteers, some of them already part of the GMMP network.

But that's not all that was done within the Refugees Reporting project: engagement with media professionals and engagement with refugee groups have been equally important parts of it. Surveys have been conducted with representatives of refugee-led groups and organisations in different countries (Italy, Greece, Portugal, UK, Finland, Ireland, France, Sweden) to assess the current communication practices and strategies, experience with the media, and suggestions, ideas and needs going forward. To understand all sides involved in the matter, interviews with journalists have also been carried out, to understand the most important points and the biggest constraints faced by media professionals, as well as suggestions, ideas and needs going forward.

Further, a consultation was organised between representatives of refugee groups and media professionals in Brussels to discuss some preliminary results of the media monitoring and create a moment of honest, face-to-face constructive discussion between the two groups, which do not often have the chance to meet in a neutral space and on an egalitarian basis.

It has been striking for me to realise how often, even in some very well-intentioned projects, refugees are overlooked and talked about rather than with, and not asked for their opinion, their ideas, their suggestions, even in situations directly faced by refugees. Such an oversight (intentional or not) is precisely what this project tries to overcome, by making sure that the voices and inputs of refugees are represented at all stages of its development.

As we now start the wrapping-up on all sides of the project and collect thoughts and ideas, and as I now reflect on all that's been happening over the past six months, there is one thing of which I am absolutely sure: the importance and the necessity of a project like Refugees Reporting, to provide factual-based analysis for a hopefully better informed and more balanced discussion, and to involve, treasure and build upon the inputs of those directly interested by the project.

With increasingly hostile political environments across Europe, it is now more important than ever to have an honest discussion about the role of the media in our societies, and to find a space for media professionals and refugees to understand each other and collaborate side-by-side, insofar as possible.

The final report of the Refugees Reporting project will be presented to the public on November 16 in Brussels. For more information on the project, go to the website Refugees Reporting

Francesca Pierigh is Research and Communications Consultant with CCME/WACC, working on the project Refugees Reporting, supported by Otto Per Mille of the Waldensian Church, Evangelical Church in Rhineland, World Council of Churches, Conference of European Churches and CCME.

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