From West Africa to Europe: Building Bridges Between Journalists

Feb 14, 2020

Rome - Covering the complexity of migration is a challenge for journalists in both countries of destination and origin. However, all too often they know little about each other and talk to each other even less. As a result, little is known in the countries of origin about how migration is covered in media and how it is perceived by public opinion in the countries of destination, or of origin.

To address these gaps, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the association “Carta di Roma” (an Italian journalists’ association funded with the goal of implementing the Journalist’s Code of Conduct on immigration) organized this week in Rome a four-day workshop with 12 journalists from Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Tunisia and Italy. The cohort had the opportunity to meet with key Italian media outlets and exchange views, and information with journalists dealing with migration in Italy.

During the four-day visit, journalists visited the editorial offices of La Repubblica, La Stampa, Radio Rai, TG3 Rai, the ANSA news agency, the magazine “Internazionale” and the “Propaganda Live” TV show.

The West African journalists had already took part in IOM led media workshops held in Senegal, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Tunisia. “During those workshops, we understood how important it was to create points of contact between the different media contexts operating between the two shores of the Mediterranean," says Laurence Hart, Director of the IOM's Coordination Office for the Mediterranean.

"Communicating the complexity of migration is a challenge that can only be met through in-depth mutual understanding. It is necessary to build a bridge of information, and we hope that this experience will not be the beginning of a series of fruitful collaborations between African and European journalists," he added.

Some journalists were guests of a RAI radio broadcast, where they expressed the desire to understand why immigration is too often considered a problem rather than a phenomenon that if well managed could benefit everyone.

Aissatou Ba, from the Senegalese News Agency said “irregular migration causes the death of too many young people and has a terrible impact on many families, victims of many mourners." Tersoo Zamber of Radio Nigeria stressed that "in the face of the loss of thousands of lives at sea, we media professionals are doing a lot to raise awareness among the youth about the importance of using regular alternatives to migrate”.

However, according to many of the Italian journalists met in these days, the regular pathways to Europe are still too few, and this lack allows criminal networks to grow strong. And if on the one hand it is true that the status of irregularity in which unfortunately many migrants arriving in Italy find themselves may contribute to the increase in social tensions and xenophobia, on the other hand the European demographic crisis which, according to many studies, over the next 30 years will reach extremely worrying peaks makes it clearer every day how necessary it is to manage regular migration channels with balanced, humanitarian and safe policies that can also respond to the challenges of the coming years.

“Today it is more complicated than ever for journalists to cover properly complex topics such as migration,” says Florence Kim, Media and Communications Officer at the IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa. “At an era of fake news, and decreasing resources for media outlets, it is of utmost importance to give journalists the tools to cover migration differently. Not necessarily in a more positive way, but in an informed way”, she concluded.

“This visit allowed us to establish, through different meetings in Italian editorial boards and newsrooms, a dialogue on the objectives of journalism and on the necessity to promote an accurate and mutual knowledge, aimed at communicating in a professional and ethical way, in-line with “carta di Roma” Deontological Code”, explained Valerio Cataldi, President of the Association Carta di Roma and reporter at Italian National TV RAI.

Participants to this initiative agreed that migration is a broad and articulated phenomena, which in a world characterized by the polarization of opinions and social communication that makes the essentiality of information its strong point, is increasingly difficult to tell. Only by combining professionalism and knowledge and creating bridges between cultures it could be possible to find truly effective and successful ways of communicating.

"We hope that the next step will be to create a platform for exchange between European and African journalists," concludes IOM’s Laurence Hart. "We are only at the beginning of a path that as IOM we will continue to support in the coming years".

This initiative is part of the “Aware Migrants” project, funded by the Italian Ministry of Interior, and carried out by the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean (Italy) with the support of IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa and IOM offices in Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

For more information please contact Flavio Di Giacomo at IOM Italy, Tel.: +39 06 44186 207, Email: fdigiacomo@iom.int 

Read the news in Italian

Western African journalists at the RAI Radio 3 studios in Rome during the workshop organised by IOM and Carta di Roma.

"We hope that the next step will be to create a platform for exchange between European and African journalists," said IOM's Laurence Hart.