UPDATE: Abu-Fadil Pens Study on How Media in Southern Med Covered Migration in 2019-20

 

Reporting on migration and refugee crises in the Southern Mediterranean region slipped in 2019 and 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak as well as other pressing economic and political issues, according to a study conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

“How did media in the Southern Mediterranean countries cover migration in 2019-2020?” the European Union-funded survey implemented by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development focused on the decline to develop a better understanding of traditional and other media’s constraints and how certain elements affected their capacity to tell the “migration story.”

These included the conflict in Syria, flare-ups in Israel/Palestine that spill over into neighboring Jordan, Lebanon’s financial meltdown, and, the strife in Libya and Algeria.

The pandemic added a layer of misery for media in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan already suffering from budget and personnel cutbacks, drops in circulation, vanishing advertising revenue, and competition from non-traditional platforms, with print outlets particularly hard hit and countless journalists having to work from home.

Abu-Fadil also drew on research from news articles and reports from various migration-related organizations.

The common thread among those countries was the relative hiatus in migration media coverage and the discovery that journalists were often ill-informed about the situation in their own back yards, much less in other countries.

The study can be downloaded in English here

In French here

In Arabic here.

 

Abu-Fadil Pens Study on How Media in Southern Med Covered Migration in 2019-20

Reporting on migration and refugee crises in the Southern Mediterranean region slipped in 2019 and 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak as well as other pressing economic and political issues, according to a study conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil.

“How did media in the Southern Mediterranean countries cover migration in 2019-2020?” the European Union-funded survey implemented by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development focused on the decline to develop a better understanding of traditional and other media’s constraints and how certain elements affected their capacity to tell the “migration story.”

These included the conflict in Syria, flare-ups in Israel/Palestine that spill over into neighboring Jordan, Lebanon’s financial meltdown, and, the strife in Libya and Algeria.

The pandemic added a layer of misery for media in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan already suffering from budget and personnel cutbacks, drops in circulation, vanishing advertising revenue, and competition from non-traditional platforms, with print outlets particularly hard hit and countless journalists having to work from home.

Abu-Fadil also drew on research from news articles and reports from various migration-related organizations.

The common thread among those countries was the relative hiatus in migration media coverage and the discovery that journalists were often ill-informed about the situation in their own back yards, much less in other countries.

The study can be downloaded here.

 

MU Director Pens Migration & Media Journalist’s Handbook

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil authored a manual for journalists in the EuroMediterranean region to help them better cover the topics of migration, refugees and human trafficking.

The handbook was published by the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) in November 2021 and was funded by the European Union.

It’s available for download as a PDF in EnglishFrench and Arabic.

Monte Carlo Doualiya Interviews Abu-Fadil on Migration & Media Study

Monte Carlo Doualiya (MCD) Radio’s Arabic service interviewed Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil on a study she conducted about coverage of migration in southern Mediterranean countries’ media that showed widened polarization between positive vs negative reporting.

Monte Carlo Doualiya logo

Abu-Fadil presented results of the study at the 4th EUROMED Migration Communicators Workshop panel in Paris in November 2021.

The event underlined the need for closer cooperation between journalists and migration-related entities to better convey the story of migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

You can hear the audio clip on MCD’s “Digital Newscast” here or download it here [MCD].

MU Director Presents Study at EuroMed Migration & Media Event

Traditional media coverage of the migration question in the southern Mediterranean slowed down in the past two years due to changing priorities but online platforms picked up some of the slack, according to a study.

While more focus was on the coronavirus and budget cuts at news organizations hampered coverage, the report pointed to widened polarization between positive vs negative coverage with a spike in media fatigue in recent years leading to ad hoc and reactive reporting.

Magda Abu-Fadil (far right) presents results of her study on media coverage of migration in southern Mediterranean countries (courtesy ICMPD)

 

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil presented results of the study she conducted at a panel on media and migration narratives and how effective partnerships can be established at the 4th EUROMED Migration Communicators Workshop in Paris in November 2021.

The event underlined the need for closer cooperation between journalists and migration-related entities to better convey the story of migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

She used a questionnaire sent to journalists, academics and members of NGOs from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. Jordan isn’t on the Mediterranean but hosts large numbers of refugees and migrants.

The study’s results indicated various actors increasingly used migration for local political and economic goals; social media and “alternative news” became more important in shaping public opinion on migration issues; lack of regulations or control over dis-, mis- and mal-information added to the problem; social media as a tool against migrants, to spread xenophobia and to picture migrants as a potential threat, was a growing trend, notably in transit and host countries; the pandemic affected the number of stories, and, to a great extent, nature and tone of those published, broadcast and posted online; and, the spread of Covid-19 was used as an anti-migrant tool in several countries.

Abu-Fadil concluded by asking the following questions: What constitutes a news story, a feature, an investigative report on migration? Are people on wooden boats seeking freedom and a better life just statistics? What’s lacking in news coverage? Who is worthy of citizenship? Who can contribute to a new adopted homeland?

The workshop was part of efforts by EUROMED Migration V (EMM5) to redefine partnerships, by focusing on the communication skills required to promote balanced narratives that enable effective and sustainable migration policy.

MU Director Trains Armenian Students on Migration & Media Issues

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil trained Armenian students on how media should cover the issues of migration, refugees and human trafficking during a summer school grouping local and international academics and experts in Aghveran.

The three-day event in July 2019 on migration and development was funded by the European Union and organized by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, with input from MIBMA Support to Migration and Border Management in Armenia.

Armenian students attend summer school on migration and development

Abu-Fadil and other specialists briefed 23 graduate and undergraduate students from Yerevan State University, Russian-Armenian University, Brusov University of Foreign Languages and other institutions on a host of topics ranging from security to globalization to migration policies to media matters.

The program acquainted the students with Armenia’s migration policies, which have been in place for over a decade, and the integration of asylum seekers, notably thousands of Syrian refugees of Armenian origin settling in the country.

On the first day Abu-Fadil contributed the media perspective for journalism students, or those who expect to deal with media, with an initial session on the need for journalists to understand the terminology of migration, refugees and human trafficking.

Magda Abu-Fadil tells students they need to understand the terminology of migration, refugees and human trafficking

She demonstrated how they should become acquainted with various international organizations and NGOs that handle these issues and learn about laws, treaties, resolutions and conventions that have been adopted over the years to better frame their reports.

Armenians have emigrated to Russia for decades in search of greener pastures. They’ve also gone further afield to the United States, Canada, Europe and several Arab countries.

Lebanon, for example, boasts a sizeable Armenian community with Lebanese citizens of Armenian descent in all walks of life and actively involved in political affairs.

Perhaps the largest waves of the Armenian diaspora were triggered by the Muslim Ottoman genocide of Christian Armenians in the early 20th Century. It involved deporting and mass killing Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire by the “Young Turk” government during World War I. Modern Turkey has never acknowledged it as a genocide.

Armenia – Google Maps

Armenia has also experienced waves of displacement with Armenians moving internally as a result of earthquakes, to which the country is prone, as well as from the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in today’s southwestern Azerbaijan, where a majority of ethnic Armenians live and are backed by the government in Yerevan, and where wars have been fought with the Republic of Azerbaijan, thereby forcing the residents to seek refuge elsewhere.

On the second day, Abu-Fadil delved into the details of how media should cover migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

Media’s familiarization with migration and refugee-related organizations

That ranged from researching the story, dealing with data, and statistics from various sources, to interviewing techniques for questioning officials, migrants, refugees and human trafficking survivors, host communities, to examining case studies of good and bad reporting, and the use of social media in getting and telling the story.

On the last day, she turned to media ethics and how journalists should humanize the story by translating numbers and statistics into individuals with fears, hopes, failures, successes and resilience against tremendous odds.

The key, she said, was changing the narrative from hate speech and stereotyping. She provided tips on how to shoot pictures and videos in an ethical fashion given the impact of visual imagery across multiple digital platforms.

MU director on changing the narrative from hate speech and stereotyping

There was also the key element of verification, notably in the age of disinformation and alternative facts where migrants are often vilified based on fabricated accounts.

There was an exercise at the end of each session to test the students’ grasp of the media-related topics and all her presentations had embedded videos to better explain what the ideas and examples meant.

Abu-Fadil to GEN Confab: Rethink Migration Coverage

Migration, refugees and human trafficking won’t disappear as topics any time soon so media had better change their narrative and learn to cover them more professionally and less sensationally.

GEN Summit Athens

That was the thrust of a panel Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil moderated at the June 2019 Global Editors Network (GEN) summit in Athens during which she tackled the thorny issues of what people should be called when they move from one country to another for whatever reason, how the story should be framed, and what types of ethical guidelines to follow.

In an introductory presentation, she showed a brief video produced by the UNHCR about the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries since the conflict broke out in Syria to highlight facts and figures with which governments may disagree, and to underline how this problem can mislead and confuse journalists.

How can we change the narrative on migration media coverage?

Confusion also arises about the terminology used by various international and local organizations. Who’s a migrant? Who’s a refugee? Who’s a displaced person? Who’s an expat or economic migrant?

“It has become a hot topic in Europe and America where far-right politics is driving the conversation around migration and it’s also somehow forcing coverage to follow along those lines,” said Omoyele Sowore, founder and editor in chief of Sahara Reporters (SR), adding that some of those discussions are driven by racist sentiments.

Blanca Tapia and Omoyele Sowore

An SR team set up the innovative prototype “Africana” to help newsrooms approach the topic of migration in new and innovative ways and debunk misinformation on how it’s reported in Africa, and beyond.

For Blanca Tapia, the focus was migrants’ rights in European Union (EU) countries and how her niche organization provides media with the needed information to humanize the story and respect for those who’ve been displaced, had to leave their homelands, and seek asylum.

“People talk about economic migrant; I could be an economic migrant, I come from Spain, I took a job, I ended up in Vienna, but I belong to a fantastic category called expats,” she said about the classification and stereotyping of people.

Tapia, a former broadcast journalist, is the program manager at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), one of the EU’s decentralized agencies set up to provide expert advice to the EU’s institutions and member states on the people living therein.

Screen shot of e-Media Toolkit (courtesy fraEuropa)

She introduced FRA’s new e-learning platform produced by journalists for journalists to mark World Refugee Day on June 20.

An online e-Media Toolkit developed in cooperation with the European Broadcasting Union and the Ethical Journalism Network with the support of the European Federation of Journalists provides first-hand assistance to media professionals with learning resources, training courses, and opportunities to share and interact.

Abu-Fadil said she was commissioned to write a guide by the Thompson Foundation’s Open Media Hub (OMH) and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) in English that was translated to Arabic and French.

Then Open Media Hub asked her to turn it into workshops and she trained journalists in Tunis on how to cover the topic.

OMH and ICMPD, with European Union funding, also launched the Migration Media Award, of which she’s a jury member.

OMH also asked Abu-Fadil to create an online course based on the handbook. It’s self-paced, free, and available in four languages: English, Arabic, French, and Russian.

Online “Reporting on Migration” course

You can view the whole GEN discussion on YouTube.

MU Director Equips Tunisian Media With Migration Coverage Know-How

Migration, refugees and human trafficking once again featured at a three-day workshop in Tunis grouping 16 journalists from various media who learned how to shape the story, focus the narrative, keep it ethical, and make it more relatable.

How to cover migration, refugees and human trafficking

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil, cameraman/editor David Hands and senior media training and exchange expert at the Open Media Hub Petko Georgiev led the mini-course.

Magda Abu-Fadil and David Hands mentor Tunisian journalists during workshop on migration and media

It aimed at helping the reporters and editors better understand the subject, identify who the stakeholders are, acquire the correct terminology to define people and their status, know where to dig for contextual information, and what traps to avoid when reporting the story.

 

Tunisian journalists complete in-session exercise

The workshop in November 2018 included journalists from Tunisia’s national television channel, newspapers, news websites, the state-run national news agency and radio stations.

They had proposed story ideas to pursue prior to the training and several went out with Hands to shoot footage and conduct interviews during the sessions.

 

David Hands helps edit footage for a migration story

On their return to the mentoring periods the journalists were then guided by Hands and Georgiev on the mechanics of assembling the elements into viable short pieces for broadcast while Abu-Fadil pitched in advice on ethics and interviewing techniques.

The previous week Abu-Fadil moderated a panel at the Assises Internationales Du Journalisme De Tunis where some 500 Francophone participants from Euromed and West African countries gathered to probe the question: Journalism Useful for Citizens?

Assises Internationales Du Journalisme De Tunis drew 500 Francophone participants from Euromed and West African countries

The three-day event in the Tunisian capital – almost 50 thematic sessions, debates, exhibitions and side activities – comes at a critical time when freedom of expression is being tested and violated on a daily basis in many of the countries from which the delegates hailed.

Abu-Fadil chaired a session entitled “No Useful Journalism Without Verification: How Do We Confirm An Image, Information?” during which she also plugged the UNESCO book she co-authored “Journalism, Fake News and Disinformation” .

 

Abu-Fadil (right) chairs panels on verification

The Assises Internationales Du Journalisme De Tunis is supported financially and programmatically by the Open Media Hub, which is implemented by the Thomson Foundation.

MU Director Trains Arab Media on Migration Coverage

Don’t take migration issues lightly, do proper research, never assume, avoid hate speech, stick to the facts, use visuals ethically and tell a good story.

That’s some of the advice Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil gave journalists at a three-day workshop in Tunis in September 2018 organized by the Open Media Hub, a European Union-funded initiative administered by the Thomson Foundation.

 

Magda Abu-Fadil explains the ethics of shooting photos and videos of migrants and refugees

The production-led training grouped print, radio, TV, online and multimedia journalists from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Syria and provided them with tools aimed at improving their reporting on migration.

Cameraman/editor David Hands, senior media training and exchange expert at the Media Hub Project Petko Georgiev and Abu-Fadil were the instructors.

Migration and media – a complex topic to cover

They aimed to reinforce the journalists’ knowledge and abilities to help them achieve balance in their stories and provide unbiased public perception of migration.

Participants were asked earlier to submit a pitch for the story they intended to finalize during the workshop sessions.

Petko Georgiev, senior media training and exchange expert at Media Hub Project and cameraman/editor David Hands

The stories will be broadcast/published in their respective news outlets and made available on the Open Media Hub’s platform and website, for exchange between participants locally and internationally.

The workshop was built on a text Abu-Fadil wrote, “Migration and Media: A Journalist’s Handbook” – a cooperative project of the Open Media Hub, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), and Euromed Migration with funding from the EU – that will be available online in English, Arabic and French.

Migration and Media: A Journalist’s Handbook

The handbook was also turned into an OMH online course in the three languages.

 

The importance of visuals in media coverage

The objective was to ensure journalists have a basic firm understanding of the complex issues of migration, refugees, and human trafficking and their impact on the politics, economics, demographics, environment, security, education and cultures of affected countries and beyond.

The trainers spent half the workshop mentoring their charges by helping them fine-tune proposals to produce viable reports and provided useful technical tips on video and audio production.

 

Mentoring journalists on how best to cover the topic

Another hitch is the lack of adequate resources and support from news organizations, so the Open Media Hub has stepped in to help defray the cost of travel and local coverage to journalists pitching credible stories that may then qualify for the EU-funded Migration Media Award (MMA). 

 

EU Ambassador to Tunisia Patrice Bergamini at the Migration Media Award

Several of the workshop participants were winners of the 2018 MMA in its second edition and hope to secure financial backing for follow-up stories.

As a member of the jury for Arabic-language media, Abu-Fadil presented the first prize in print to Egyptian journalist Ibrahim Mustafa whose story “Europe is Not Paradise” was published in the daily Al Akhbar.

 

Abu-Fadil handing Arabic Migration Media Award first prize in print

The MMA for print, radio, TV and multimedia stories in Arabic, English and French was launched in 2017 to recognize excellence, relevance and newsworthiness of journalistic pieces dealing with migration in all its aspects in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

 

End of a successful workshop

This year’s awards focused on diaspora, labor migration, vulnerable groups, and legal and irregular migration.

MU Director Discusses Media Ethics, Migrants in AUC Podcast

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil spoke with Arab Media and Society, the magazine of the American University in Cairo, about how the migration crisis has been covered in Lebanese media and beyond, as well as issues of media ethics in the Arab world.

Two recent articles and a report chapter by Abu-Fadil are mentioned in a podcast and can be found here:

Ethical Journalism Network Report.

Huffington Post Blogs – “Lebanon: Media Put Humanity in the Picture as Refugee Crisis Takes Hold.” 

“Moving Stories: International Review of How Media Cover Migration.”