May. 29, 2019

Christian communicators shine at Global Media Forum

Christian communicators shine at Global Media Forum
 Panel Discussion at the Global Media Forum on how can migrants make themselves heard in the age of national populism. Photo: DW/F. Görner

29 May 2019

The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) was featured in the DW Global Media Forum held 27-28 May in Bonn, Germany.

More than 2,000 media professionals, policymakers, and movers from politics and civil society, culture and education, business and science – representing 140 countries – attended the conference.

The theme, “Shifting powers,” explored the impact of shifting power structures on the international media landscape and evaluated opportunities and challenges arising from digitalization. The programme included topics ranging from how the media can shift power back to local people to a debate on whether social media is killing the critical media landscape.

On 27 May, WACC hosted a panel discussion titled “Can Migrants Make Themselves Heard in the Age of National Populism?”

“WACC is gravely concerned by the rise of nationalist and populist ideologies that tend to demonize refugees and migrants in an attempt to gain or to maintain political power,” said WACC general secretary Philip Lee, in his opening remarks. “Reports coming out of many European countries – and elsewhere – suggest that the roles of traditional and social media need to be assessed in the light of historical lessons and today’s more democratic values.”

Advancing the rights of refugees

Panellists -  Venu Arora (executive Director, Ideosync Combine, India), David Morales (Fundacion Comunicacion Positiva-Colombia/WACC Latin America),  Funmi Falobi (Journalists for Christ, Nigeria) and Stephen Brown (president, WACC Europe, UK/France),  shared insights about WACC-supported projects that have used media-based strategies to advance the rights of migrants and refugees.

“While voices against migration are on the rise, migrants themselves continue to live without access to voice,” said Arora, presenting her organization’s project to empower migrant women in Delhi using digital media.

Called Freedem Sarai - Free/dem comes from a combination of the words freedom and democracy, while Sarai is a Hindi Language word for “a resting place for travellers” – the programme has been working with young migrants and women who live on the margins of New Delhi, the capital city of India.

Through the programme, migrants and other community members are offered training to use mobile phones and the Internet as well as audio and video tools for digital storytelling to explore their lived realities and recount their memories of migration.

Telling the real story

Morales described how a network of 20 citizen journalists in the border area between Colombia and Venezuela are working to provide information to Venezuelan migrants. More than 1.2 million Venezuelan citizens are reported to have arrived in Colombia since 2017.

The project aims to provide greater access to relevant media and information content and to promote dialogue in the Venezuelan migrant community through training workshops and content production and distribution.

“Stories written by the citizen reporters network are promoted through the web site, social media platforms, e-mail marketing and community, educational, ethnic and university radio stations linked with the project,” said Morales.

Falobi discussed a research project undertaken by WACC Africa and partners focussing on media portrayal of internationally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The outcome of the survey shows that media reportage on IDPs and refugees was usually in a superficial manner, focusing on speeches and perspectives of people in government without any deliberate effort to find out the social context of what IDPs need and how they feel inside the camps,” said Falobi.

“The media also portrayed the IDPs as victims while women and children who are the most vulnerable are not given enough mentions in media reportage,” she stated.

Changing the narrative

Brown reported on a project called “Changing the Narrative: Media Representation of Refugees and Migrants in Europe” carried out in 2017 by WACC’s Europe Region together with the Churches’ Commission for Migrants.

The impetus for the project came from the experiences of the year 2015 which saw hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge in Europe, many losing their lives in the process, and the varied reporting in the media, which swung between hospitality and hostility.

A key aspect of the project was bringing journalists and representatives of refugee-led networks into dialogue to discuss the results of a media monitoring exercise in seven European countries.

The results of the project raised the importance of journalists following existing codes of practice, building trust and capacity between refugee groups and media professionals, and creating better media understanding among non-governmental organizations working with refugee groups.

“At a time when the number of internationally displaced persons (40 million) and refugees (22.5 million) in 2016 are the highest figures on record, the projects discussed by panellists underline the need throughout the world of giving voice to the diversity, experience and expertise of refugees and migrants themselves,” said Brown.

WACC's participation in the DW Global Media Forum was partly supported by Bread for the World, Germany. Both WACC and Bread for the World are members of the ACT Alliance.

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