In our ICFJ-Facebook Toolkit for Reporting on Refugee Communities, ICFJ trainers have developed resources to guide you through various aspects of the techniques, ethics and guidelines of your work.
We provide advice for editorial decision-making, tools for conducting risk assessments and production crisis management, in addition to a resource on mental health, and a guide to an ethical code that will help you achieve professional, humanitarian journalism.
The aim is to help change the narrative around refugees as you report, investigate and represent the truthful depth of your coverage during the pandemic.
In order to report effectively and responsibly on refugees during the pandemic, it is essential for journalists to critically analyze current narratives in both traditional and citizen media.
A report by the International Organization of Immigration titled “Fatal Journeys”, for example, stated that media coverage rarely focuses on refugees’ success stories, the importance of international financial transactions to support their relocation or the cultural richness of refugees in diaspora. Nor does reporting address their contributions to the development and demographic change of their host countries. Instead, the majority of coverage focuses on highlighting the horrors that refugees face.
In order to develop a more enlightening narrative, you should familiarize yourself with helpful tools at your disposal and learn how to work with them for the story’s benefit. Language is the most important tool at your disposal as it’s your primary medium to connect with your audience. Stereotyping refugees, displaced peoples and immigrants has created a static, inaccurate image of those communities.
To avoid language that may perpetuate these harmful images, and to improve the narrative around refugees during the pandemic, we recommend these helpful resources:
- Media-Friendly Glossary on Migration developed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).
- EU Guide on how to change the narrative of refugees and migrants in Europe.
- A BBC article by Camila Ruz, which examines the language used in the media to describe migrants.
The research you conduct for your reporting is critical. Without comprehensive research, your reporting may fall victim to the same stereotypes and tired, misleading narratives of the past. Effective research will inform and support the language you use, enabling your reporting to reach greater potential. There are two layers of research you must carry out:
(1) Primary, location-based research
Start by researching the location where you are interested in reporting, your potential travel to the location, current health conditions, emergency exits in case of danger, movement strategies within your location, safe locations for your team members, and assembly points from which you can take your next steps as a team.
Here are some resources to help:
- The World Health Organization COVID-19 Dashboard. This dashboard provides real-time data on COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccines.
- The UNHCR Refugee Situations portal. This page provides regularly updated data related to refugees for media personnel and researchers.
- The UNESCO Resource Center of Responses to COVID-19. This page houses UNESCO’s media and communication information during COVID-19. It includes examples of COVID-19 responses that relate to freedom of expression, disinformation, journalist safety and more.
- UNHCR statistics about refugee-hosting countries and countries with large communities of displaced persons.
- Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries. This resource can help you compare various patterns in covering refugees stories.
- For resources on risk assessments and safety plans, visit Part 2 of this toolkit.
(2) Secondary research
Your next step is to conduct more in-depth research. You should focus this on finding an angle, and identifying main players, third parties, witnesses and potential sources on the ground.
Where can you search? Here is a list of organizations and their websites where you can dig for stories, especially if you’re not able to travel due to COVID-19:
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: The UN Refugee Agency, which may help you locate and get started on your story.
- UN International Organization of Migration: You can use this site to generate data on immigration issues, including international agreements and local legal commitments.
- The United Nations: On this page, you can find any UN news stories related to refugees and migrants, including archived articles.
- International Labour Organization: This can be a resource to explore refugee labor rights and residency in hosting countries.
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN: This can be a very helpful resource for food aid programs and areas of crisis.
- International Committee of The Red Cross: For journalists, this can be an excellent resource for stories about education, sexual violence, detainees, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.
- The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC): The IFRC can be a resource for generating human stories linked to COVID-19, and to explore health data about refugees.
- Amnesty International: You can visit Amnesty International for information about human rights abuses. The organization also can provide excellent sources for your reporting.
- International Rescue Committee (IRC): The IRC can provide you with sources and stories to help your reporting on refugees and international war atrocities.
- Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF): MSF produces reports on human crises and can provide valuable health-related information about the locations you are reporting from.
You can also visit the websites of CARE International, OXFAM, Human Rights Watch, Caritas Internationalis, The International Centre for Migration Policy Development, EuroMed Rights, The International Crisis Group and the The International Catholic Migration Commission for helpful information and resources to support your reporting on refugees.
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.