Stories about refugees, migration and displacement are often complex and multi-layered. Journalists should seek accuracy, neutrality, balance and an ethical reporting approach when covering such stories.
By including original first-hand accounts from refugees, witnesses and other parties involved, you strengthen and add credibility to your reporting. Journalists can use calls to action and crowdsourcing in efforts to include refugees as storytellers and sources of information.
In order to utilize crowdsourcing to support your reporting on refugees during the pandemic, here are some useful resources:
- ProPublica checklist on how to use crowdsourcing
- The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) guide to crowdsourcing
- Case study on how journalists used social media to report on Muammar Gaddafi and his regime’s use of cluster bombs
- Resources for covering migration and refugees, published on IJNet
In 2020, conspiracy theories, harmful health information and hate speech were being spread online in the wake of the pandemic. In a speech, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres upheld the importance of credible and impartial news media and emphasized the importance of press freedom to counter the COVID-19 disinfodemic.
Credible journalism relies on fact-checking and a commitment by journalists to maintain truth and integrity in their reporting. This is just as important when using crowdsourced information. Here are some resources that can assist you in fact-checking information derived from crowdsourcing:
- The CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance Database from Poynter, which includes examples of misinformation detected and debunked in at least 40 languages
- GIJN resource list on fact-checking and verification
- The Verification Handbook, from the European Journalism Centre
- Tips for using Twitter as a journalist, from First Draft, with a focus on crowdsourcing and verification
- GIJN Toolbox, which includes a look at tools such as CrowdTangle and Echosec that can help journalists identify user-generated content posted on social media
- Journalism, 'Fake News' and Disinformation: A Handbook for Journalism Education and Training from UNESCO.
- Google News Initiative online verification course. This course offers students a look at methods that can be utilized to verify images, videos and reports found online, including on social media.
Ethical journalism about refugees
You should always follow a code of ethics and respect when reporting. This includes following editorial guidelines that support the highest standards of integrity, objectivity and impartiality.
In order to produce a human journalistic story, your ethical code is even more strict. This code will guide every step and decision around your story. Incorporating bias or demoralizing your sources will affect your credibility and can harm the quality of your reporting on human stories.
The following points can guide you during your work. When reporting on refugees during the pandemic, carefully consider each of the points below before every editorial or production decision you make. Failing to do so may harm your sources, jeopardizing their physical or mental wellbeing.
- Think about the impact your story will have on the refugee community on which you’re reporting
- Collaborate impartially with humanitarian bodies in the field
- Be aware of explicit and implicit bias
- Ensure the statistics and legal terms you use are accurate
- Study relevant treaties and agreements about the refugees you’re covering
- Treat sources humanely and with dignity
- Pay attention to the context, circumstances and motivations of refugees in your story
- Highlight the skills and capabilities of refugees in your reporting
- Remember that refugees and displaced people have positive stories to tell, and like all of us, have human needs and distinctive life experiences that can inform a more comprehensive, accurate narrative.
- Do not cause harm, either intentionally or unintentionally
Your ethical code is as important as your risk assessment. Both mitigate the risks and harm you may cause yourself or your team, in addition to your reporting subjects and sources.
Here are some additional resources that can help you acknowledge and consider the impact your journalism could have on people, including those who may have experienced mental or emotional trauma in the past, or who have been physically harmed.
- Reporting on Refugees, a guide from the UNHCR
- How can we tell migrants’ stories better? Here are 10 ways, published by BRIGHT magazine
- The Ethical Journalism Network’s review of media coverage of refugees and immigration
- Reporting on Trafficking in Human Beings, from the Ethical Journalism Network
IJNet's parent organization, ICFJ, partnered with the Facebook Journalism Project on its Reporting on Refugee Communities Amidst a Pandemic program.
Main graphic created by Malak Elabbar.