By Kunle Taiwo
Journalists International Forum For Migration, JIFORM, on Monday puts its weight behind the final draft of the ethical charter for media coverage on migration and urged media across the world to consider the document as working tool.
The international body for over 150 seasoned journalists and volunteers leading advocacy against irregular migration and human trafficking across the globe also praised the International Organisation For Migration (IOM) and media practitioners who converged in Tunisia in 2019 to make the document a reality.
Ajibola Abayomi, the President/Executive Director of JIFORM in a statement issued from the Headquarters of the Foundation in Lagos said: “We whole heatedly endorse the charter as a guide for journalists and other bodies working on migration/migrants issues. We were part of it and we made representation leading to the final draft of the document.
“It is a good development for journalists. In this regards, JIFORM recognizes the noble role of IOM in bringing together journalists to brainstorm on way forward for improved migration reportage and understanding.
“We recommend the document not only to our members across the globe but also journalists that are genuinely interested in working for humanity on migration matters” Ajibola stated.
Details of the Charter as written and adopted in Carthage (Tunisia) on December 11, 2019 by journalists from Africa, America, Asia and Europe are as follows:
- Words count
Any journalist covering migration issues should question the origin and impact of terms he/she uses. The journalist does not use pejorative and legally unsuitable such as “illegal”: a human being is not “illegal”, we prefer the term “in an irregular situation.” He/she uses the terminology and concepts that are in conformity with the international law and human dignity.
- Hatred, racism, discrimination
The journalist decrypts and go beyond speeches of hatred, racism, xenophobia and discrimination.
- Facts are complex
The work of journalist consists of reporting on particular stories in a global historical, socioeconomic, cultural and geopolitical context.
The journalist identifies and questions clichés and stereotypes by getting back to facts and replacing them in their context. He/she deconstructs the speeches that criminalize migrants and consider them a threat.
Considering the complexity of migratory issues, he/she diversifies sources of information, journalistic genres, themes and angles.
- Informed consent
Migrants, who are in a regular or irregular administrative situation, are often those who express less. Frequently reduced to the state of victims, they cannot be restricted by journalist to be only victims of their situation.
Migrants are individuals mastering their own history. The journalist gives them a voice, allows them to elaborate, and invites them to become actors of the debate.
This voice is collected based on the informed consent: knowing that not everyone has the same control, neither the same media literacy, the interviewer explains to the person he interviews the finality of his journalistic work and the possible risks relating to the publication of his testimony and/or of his image. It is about not harming vulnerable persons.
- Have empathy and vigilance
The journalist is not looking for the sensational. He/she is in his/her role as a witness, shows empathy but portrays the situation as it is, remaining vigilant about the veracity of the stories he/she collects. He never accepts to pay to obtain a testimony.
He/she respects the culture, religion and traditions of the people he/she interviews.
The journalist is, also, aware – though he/she has his own references- that he/she is marked by his/her education, values and own cultural knowledge. The journalist remains alert to stereotypes or clichés which, in every society, tend to stigmatize “the other,” the foreigner.
He/she is particularly attentive to the situation of women, minors, ethnic and sexual minorities. He/she is aware of the emotional state of the people he/she has met and the possible trauma they have endured.
- The force of images
The journalist should also ensure having the migrant’s informed consent for the dissemination of his/her image. He/she never accepts to pay for a photo or a filmed sequence.
Minors are photographed or filmed on the sole condition that a parent or relative one confirms their consent.
Still images are provided to newsrooms with specific captions to help prevent misunderstanding, misuse, or malicious use.
Particularly strong, sometimes shocking, graphic images which show extreme situations are published or disseminated if, and only if, they are produced with the intention of explaining, convincing or denouncing, apart from the search for the sensational.