Many of the workshop participants said they came from countries where journalism was controlled by the government or where journalists risked their lives to cover daily news. Three were journalists fleeing persecution. Participants asked how much control the government had over the media in Canada, how editorial decisions are made, how fact-checking works and how they know they can trust a journalist.
the definition of the term “refugee,” which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) describes as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.”
Even so, refugees’ and asylum seekers’ perspectives on things that impact them aren’t always heard. The media tends to swoop in during a crisis, take information and leave.
For World Refugee Day, we have taken what they shared and put together a toolkit for refugees and journalists. It includes information to help refugees preparing to share their perspectives with the media, and best practices for journalists who report on refugee issues. You can view the tips for journalists here and the tips for refugees here. These are five key points brought forward by participants in the workshop: 1. Refugees’ daily interactions are shaped by media coverage.
“When I just asked [some Canadians] what is the first word that comes into your mind when you hear the word ‘refugee,’ some of them told me ‘war,’ ‘homelessness,’ ‘dangerous.’” recalls Alanny. She explained she met Canadians who don’t know about “the refugee as a person,” that refugees have been forced to leave their countries, leaving behind family members, careers and belongings.
2. It’s important to highlight diverse refugee voices. Workshop participants also expressed concerns that the media’s focus on Syrians meant that the concerns of a broad array of refugees were overlooked. They recommended the media cover the stories of diverse refugees from different countries, including the reason they’d fled their native countries and their varied resettlement challenges.
3. We need to look beyond the crisis.
“I would love to advise journalists to listen carefully when it comes to interviewing refugees. When they’re listening to refugees, they have to listen to the whole story and not be selective to one certain story,” says Ely Bahhadi, a Masters of Journalism student at the University of British Columbia and privately sponsored Syrian refugee. He worries that coverage of crises without more positive stories – such as coverage of solutions and refugees’ contributions to Canada – perpetuates negative stereotypes and hinders discussion of solutions to crises.
4. We need to explain journalism better.
5. Compassionate follow-up can advance the conversation.
Workshop participants also said they’d like to see more journalists follow stories as they develop, rather than doing one-off stories about specific refugees or issues.
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