Migrants Day: Towards ethical media coverage of migration

Ethical media coverage of migrant issues is essential to erase stigmatization, xenophobia and racism from our societies. On the International Day of Migrants, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reaffirms its commitment to ethical, factual, and rigorous reporting over migration and the role of media towards inclusive and hate speech-free societies.

Maria, a Mexican migrant, puts make-up on inside a tent before going out at the Juventud 2000 migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, on December 17, 2020. Credit: Guillermo Arias / AFP

One year ago the IFJ participated in the elaboration of the “Ethical Charter for media coverage of Migration”, drafted by journalists from Africa, America, Asia and Europe and IFJ and other journalists' organisations representatives. The charter, which is inspired by its Global Charter of the Ethics of Journalism, proposes six ethical principles that shall apply to the media coverage of migration.

Journalists, strengthened by the support of scholars and specialists that met in December 2019 in Tunisia, debated during two days, sharing experiences, sensitivities and ways of looking at the coverage of migration issues on the different continents. 

In first place, any journalist covering migration issues should question the origin and impact of terms he/she uses, decrypting them, and going beyond speeches of hatred, racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

The work of journalists also consists of reporting on particular stories in a global, historical, socioeconomic, cultural and geopolitical context. Media coverage of migration must take into account that migrants are individuals worthy of respect and dignity, which requires journalists to provide them a fair opportunity to contribute to the debate.

Journalists’ role is one of a witness, showing empathy, and portraying the situation as it is. They must also ensure  the migrant's informed consent for the dissemination of his/her image.

The drafting team is deeply convinced that the media coverage of migration requires a particular vigilance from media professionals. This coverage calls for rigorous respect of ethical and deontological principles of the profession: accuracy, independence, humanity and responsibility.

For one year now, the charter has circulated in English, Arabic, French and Spanish in newsrooms, journalism schools, universities, associations, professional organisations and specialised instances.

The IFJ has extensive experience in supporting ethical coverage of migration and forced labor. Between 2018 and 2020, the IFJ also worked with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on a joint program to provide key tools and knowledge to journalists from target countries to report professionally and ethically on forced labor and fair recruitment stories. This project aimed at improving media coverage of these topics in places that are either part of migration corridors or target project countries, among other objectives.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “Migration is an important story which needs to be covered carefully.  When covering migration, journalists must observe extreme focus on the context, conditions and specific issues they’re reporting about to avoid sensationalism. We were proud of participating in the drafting of the Ethical Charter for media coverage of Migration and wish it continues helping media workers to better report on migration."

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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