Journalism against misleading communication about migration

The relevance of tackling inequalities in and with communication

Lab debate
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
10:00 to 11:15

In recent years, migration has moved to the top of the news agenda. As stated in the EU Consensus on Development, “migration is a complex, global, long-lasting phenomenon”. It is essential to provide the public with adequate and understandable information about migration, avoiding over-simplistic tone or victim frames. But how are the media reporting about migration? Can media and NGOs – always devoted to address global issues – collaborate to give correct information about migration?

This session will provide points of views and experiences of journalists who use a different narrative on migration from mainstream media, its causes and consequences. The journalists have teamed up with NGOs to produce journalistic releases that give voice to migrants and show the complexity of the phenomenon.

Key points

  • The media should portray migrants as individuals, not as a crowd
  • Through storytelling, the phenomenon of migration is broken down into personal experiences
  • Visual storytelling is a tool to present migrants on their own terms
  • The media has a role to play in providing migrants with correct information


Through visual storytelling, migrants can relate their own story to a wider public. Reporters play a major role in bridging the information gap between the countries of origin and the destination countries for migration. Even-handed reporting should go beyond the political perspective and the legal issues to explain the complex phenomenon of migration. By relating migrants’ personal stories, the media helps to nuance the language beyond the legal issues. A new terminology is created by letting the migrants address the audience in their own way, Even concepts known as push-and-pull factors are not unambiguous. It is income inequality rather than “abject poverty” that serves as a push factor for migration, as does gender-based violence and armed conflict. But those factors provide only partial information because from an individual perspective, the reasons for leaving a country are more complex. Migrants are actors in their own right and even though the media often present them as victims, their own perception of their status is different. Reporters should deliver an honest and accurate depiction of people on a migratory journey, so as to counter the sensationalist approach that is spreading by “click-bait” online media. Visual storytelling is a means of challenging the eurocentric bias. This is the frame of reference for the European audience, where migration is discussed in terms of border controls and attempts to prevent people from moving from one country to another. However, for ethnic groups in many West African countries, migration has become a modern rite of passage with young people either travelling to cities in the region or across the Mediterranean. By referring to someone merely as a migrant, there is focus only on the action of migration, whereas the people concerned act in their own right and are very capable of confronting obstacles. The media also has a role in informing the public in the migrants’ home countries to avert exploitation, since much of the information they receive at home comes from the human smugglers. In-depth reporting in local media reveals the situation on the ground in terms of the human impact of migration. If those stories served as a counter-narrative, the European mainstream media would pick up on those themes.


The focus should be on humanising migrants and featuring their migration from their own personal perspective. The media has a major role to play in connecting the European audience with these people. Migrants are active individuals who are not just driven by socioeconomic push and pull factors.

Organised by


Jara Henar
Expert on migration and mobility
Alianza por la Solidaridad
Simona Carnino
Andrea de Georgio
Pieter Stockmans
MO* Magazine