Representing migration in the media

DAHLIA participates in the study on the representation of migration in the media


DAHLIA produced a report to identify the actors acting in the media and on migration. The objective was to analyze the representations conveyed by the media and social networks on migration. This study was commissioned and coordinated by Canal France International (CFI), a public sector operator funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. Together with Red Mangrove Development Advisors (RMDA) the study covers sixteen countries: Burkina Faso, Colombia, Comoros, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea, Jordan, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia.

The main expected outcomes of the report were to:

  • Gain insight into the image of migration and migrants in both media and public discourse in the 16 countries via an overview outlining the key migration trends.
  • Identify what has already been done and who by, in terms of building capacity in the media on the theme of migration in these 16 countries.

The study underlines that main obstacles to well-informed and well-balanced coverage of the topic of migration are:

  • Lack of understanding of terminology with legal definitions and the use of adversely connotated terminology.
  • Difficulties gaining access to reliable sources of information, leading certain journalists to simply parrot information from European media.
  • Trouble gaining access to migrants, depriving journalists of primary sources of information.
  • Limited newsroom interest for this theme, except when a drama hits the headlines, with the assumption that it does not appeal to the general public.
  • Lack of financial resources to cover these topics which require timen. In places like Colombia, Burkina Faso and Jordan, there are also security aspects in that travelling to the zones in question can be risky;
  • Lack of training for journalists on this theme.

The conclusions and recommendations reflect the following guidelines:

  • Emphasise ethics and the code of ethics for the profession and the media in general.
  • Address the question of migration in all its dimensions and complexity.
  • Involve migrants in the design and/or implementation of capacity-building initiatives for the media.
  • Open up to more types of stakeholders taking part in capacity-building initiatives: people working in NGOs and academics working on migration issues, editorial managers and media directors and bloggers.
  • Raise awareness among public institutions as to the importance of ensuring the freedom of the press, independence of the media, data availability and statistics.

Training remains a key element to build reporting skills, but the setup (duration, format and journalists targeted) and themes must be more varied and shaped according to what has already been accomplished. Interesting practices can also be replicated, such as:

  • Training courses on the use of social networks.
  • Training in data journalism and visual tools (graphs, maps etc.).
  • Mentoring schemes, especially to monitor output (articles, surveys, reports etc.).
  • Training courses which systematically combine theory with hands-on practice, with technical survey and investigation modules tailored to the migratory context.
  • Visits on the ground in migrant hotspots: humanitarian camps, border checkpoints, regions from which migrants depart, vulnerable zones involving human trafficking, campuses with foreign students etc.
  • Training courses allowing migrants to have their say.
  • Decentralised in-person continuous training courses in various places rather than exclusively in capital cities.
  • Training courses intended for one type of media because different media types don’t necessarily have the same training requirements;
  • Regional and interregional workshops with beneficiaries from several countries on a common theme as well as workshops attended by journalists from Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, as a way of harnessing different views and experiences.
  • Emphasise training for students in journalism and communication, integrating migration issues in the curricula.