Media and Migration : The power of imagery and its perception

Media and Migration : The power of imagery and its perception

Media is a huge part of storytelling today. Is it responsible for the history that is being written for future generations to come?

Migration is a topic that has taken centre stage in the media in the last few years. However, few journalists are trained to cover this issue. These are the recent conclusions of media experts who gathered on 18 March in Paris to discuss on Media and Migration, during a thematic debate organized by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

To make things worse, it is a common knowledge that across all countries , “media have been manipulated by political leaders, too often accepting their outrageous statements,” added Aidan White, Director of the Ethical Journalism Network which has recently published Moving Stories. 

The personal connections between politicians and media houses are known and understood by the journalists and this is taken under consideration when and how they choose to report issues. Three years ago, pictures of a dead child who was a  Syrian refugee and was found on a Turkish beach, were widely circulated and became the highlight of discussions and accumulated criticisms against the media. In contrast, the image of the Mexican refugees (specifically the image of a dead father and his daughter on the banks of a river holding hands)are not given equal prominence in the Western media in comparison.

The entanglement of media and migration expands across all fields, namely political, cultural and even social life. Migration is increasingly digitally tracked and national and international policy-making draws on data on migrant movement, anticipated movement and biometrics to maintain a sense of control over the mobility of humans and things.Social imagery has driven strong emotions and sometimes biased conclusions too.

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), the Budapest Business School and the European Journalism Centre based at Maastricht in the Netherlands, has been working to turn the camera around on news production in Europe. The example cited in their research expands one’s understanding about migration and how it is seen across the world. 

On of their interviewees, a Swedish newspaper reporter, is very positive about the role of journalism: “I enjoy great respect. People listen to what I say and want to hear my opinion.

However some, like this UK newspaper journalist, have a different experience: “Even my own friends hate the fact that I work here and think I’m a disgrace, but I’ve just learned to ignore it and I just get on with my work.”

To see migrants as a strong labour force instead of those fleeing persecution and seeking asylum will definitely change the way integration is dealt with in the western countries. The impact of imagery in the media and its impact on migration and policymakers across the world is to be given utmost importance. Images have a lasting impact and are easily able to garner attention. The question to consider is: are we being fed the images we want to see? Or are we being made to see selected images that may impact our perception of the affairs of the world?

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Why Are World Hunger Levels Increasing?

Why Are World Hunger Levels Increasing?

Recent reportage suggests that world hunger, one of the most pressing (and – arguably – preventable) humanitarian crises of today, is on the increase. The UN has said that over 820 million people worldwide remain hungry, and that its current target of zero hunger by 2030 will be ‘an immense challenge’. 

The increase in hunger is due to a number of factors, including rapid population increase, economic instability and income inequality. The UN says the increase jeopardises achieving other sustainable goals including climate action, as this hunger impacts all from farmers to newborn babies.

The increase in hunger is being mainly blamed on the general decrease in the level of aid deployed from richer areas to poorer areas, and specifically to certain African countries. According to Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, humanitarian organisations are currently receiving only 27% of what they need to provide relief to those affected by the hunger crisis. In 2018, this included a 3% decrease in overseas development assistance than in 2017 – including a 4% decrease in African aid, and 8% decrease in humanitarian aid.  

Speaking in the Guardian, Egeland says: “It is a question of priorities. The world’s total military expenditure has increased to a whopping $1.8tn. The cost of closing the humanitarian funding gap and providing people with basic support equals to just about 1% of this”. 

It appears that if political will matched the sense of humanitarian duty, much of this hunger could be easily prevented. 820 million adults and children across the globe would not go hungry tonight. If hunger is eradicated, in tandem would be less illness, increase production in agriculture, and a monumental increase in the quality of life for many. The (perhaps chosen) inability to prevent this hunger is one of the great tragedies of our age.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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Female Sea Watch captain becomes a symbol of defiance

Female Sea Watch captain becomes a symbol of defiance

She is being called La Capitana! Carola Rakete, the 31-year-old dreadlocked German captain of the Sea-Watch 3, has been lauded as a heroine by many after she was arrested following her challenge to the “closed port policy” of Il Capitano (aka Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini). 

Rakete’s NGO ship was carrying migrants from Libya rescued from an unseaworthy vessel launched by Libya-based human traffickers. Salvini refused to let the ship dock in Lampedusa, one of the main Italian ports of arrival for refugees,  until other European countries agreed to take them. Rakete bravely decided the migrants had waited long enough and decided to dock without permission, saying it was a matter of human rights. Her organisation tweeted: “Its enough. After 16 days following the rescue, #Seawatch 3 enters in port.” Rakete hit an Italian police boat which was blocking her path to the dock which led to her arrest. 

While some deplored her actions – Salvini himself dismissed her as a “rich, white, german woman” who had committed an “act of war” – many were on her side, including UN experts who declared that “rescuing migrants in distress at sea is not a crime” and called on the Italian Authorities to “immediately stop the criminalisation of search and rescue operations”. 

The judge ruled Rackete was fulfilling her duty to rescue persons in distress at sea. She ordered her immediate release and dismissed the charges that Rackete had hit a police boat and ignored police by docking at Lampedusa. However, the judge has since been the target of sexist messages online as well as rape and death threats. 

Rakete remains under investigation in separate criminal proceedings, facing allegations that she endangered the lives of police officers and facilitated illegal migration. She could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Such a conviction would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on migrant rights defenders. 

Almost 700 deaths have been registered in the Mediterranean so far in 2019; nearly half as many as the 1,425 recorded in 2018. Libya is a main departure point for migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe by boat in a bid to escape war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.  Italy is one of the main EU landing points. Until recently, it accepted nearly all of the refugees and migrants rescued by humanitarian groups at sea. However, when a populist coalition government took power in 2018, they swiftly moved to close Italy’s ports to NGO ships.

The EU ended its own Mediterranean rescue operations in March following disagreements on how those rescued should be divided between EU member states. UN agencies have called for a resumption of the naval patrols and for European countries to stop returning refugees and migrants to Libya where they are at risk due to the ongoing conflict and endure dire conditions. The agencies also said NGO rescue ships play a “crucial role” and must not be penalised for saving lives at sea. 

A tentative agreement, which aims to create a system for the European distribution of rescued people on a voluntary basis, has just been reached. It is hoped this will improve the situation for refugees and migrants, and that the vital EU rescue operations which save countless lives will now resume.  

If this does not happen, the situation for migrants in the Mediterranean will become even more perilous. 

The criminalisation or blocking of humanitarian help for migrants and refugees is an important human rights issue that we should all be concerned about. For five reasons why migration is also a feminist issue see: https:/ www.unfpa.org/news/five-reasons-migration-feminist-issue

 

Photo courtesy of Daniel Arrhakis via Flickr

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DRC: fighting Ebola in conflict zones

DRC: fighting Ebola in conflict zones

Ebola, a viral hemorrhagic fever, has ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2018. Now, in mid-2019, the situation has officially been declared the second-worst outbreak of Ebola ever record by the World Health Organisation. The Ebola virus is spread through body fluids, attacking the immune system and causing vomiting, diarrhea and extensive bleeding. Drugs and medicine are still experimental, with quarantine being the most frequent effort of prevention. This outbreak is the DRC’s tenth since the 1970s – yet this is the first in an active conflict zone. To date, over 2,500 people in the DRC have been infected by the virus.

This month, the death of the first Ebola patient in a large city proved that the DRC is struggling to contain the crisis. The patient passed away in the city of Goma, over 220 miles from where the outbreak began. Goma is a city of over one million people, and lies geographically close to the border with Rwanda.

It is difficult to bring this situation under control due to the lack of basic services and facilities in much of eastern DRC, where successive conflicts means over 5 million deaths have occurred since 1994. Government authority extends only to urban areas, while militia and armed bands dominate in rural areas, where most of the population live hand to mouth. Reports suggest locals wonder why similar funds have not been invested in preventing other diseases prominent in the area such as malaria. 

The WHO were reluctant to declare the situation an international public health emergency, mainly due to technical reasons, despite its spread to Uganda and Rwanda. On 18 July they rectified this. Health workers in the area have began rolling out measles vaccinations in an attempt to stifle preventable deaths. International coverage and funding to the area could help prevent the spread of this deadly virus, and encourage further research into finding a cure. 

 

Photo: Ebola survivor, UN photo archive

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Nelson Mandela Day: how his legacy lives on

As the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s determination and resilience helped overcome an apartheid regime and cement his status as an international peacemaker. Ten years ago, the United Nations General Assembly began to commemorate this special person on his birthday, 18 July. Since then, World Nelson Mandela Day has been celebrated using special hashtags #ActionAgainstPoverty and #MandelaDay. 

Mandela left office in 1999, but his policies and legacies continue to shape the social landscape of South Africa beyond a dismantling of an oppressive apartheid regime. In 2000, a quarter of 15-45 year old South Africans tested positive for HIV/AIDS, which amounted to over four million people. Nelson Mandela advocated for treatment and future prevention in a groundbreaking agenda. Today, while HIV+ rates remain high at 18.9%, South Africa has a fully funded HIV programme with 90-90-90 targets, the first of which was reached in 2017 – 90% of the population are now aware of their HIV status. Nelson Mandela’s determination to tackle this issue in governmental policy began this long road to a manageable epidemic. 

The clause with World Nelson Mandela Day is to honour Mandela’s sixty-seven years of public service with sixty-seven minutes of selfless acts to help others in your community. The Nobel Peace Prize Winner founded the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999, an organisation which works as “a committed facilitator of his living legacy … to promote his lifelong vision of freedom and equality for all”. The Foundation organises World Nelson Mandela Day alongside the UN, working to honour the statesman while encouraging international positive difference. This 18 July, it is worth remembering the impact that a single person can have in securing a brighter future for our world – and to carry that inspiration forward. 

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Menjoulet via Flickr

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The right to a healthy environment: a protected human right?

The right to a healthy environment: a protected human right?

The right to a healthy environment is a complex issue, and this is reflected in the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] approach to the subject.  Although, the European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR] does not enshrine any explicit right to a healthy environment, environmental jurisprudence has developed due to the exercise of convention rights being undermined.  The rise in environmental awareness due to the risks posed by climate change has resulted in an increase of environmental NGO’s and public interest groups taking legal action against governments over their lack of action to combat climate change. The difficulty of public interest litigation, based on the ECHR, is that Art 34 precludes these groups from access to the ECtHR. This poses the question of whether the governments will soon have to legislate on this issue?  

The most valuable decision to date on this issue is that of State of Netherlands v Urgenda Foundation [Urgenda], an unprecedented case in the EU which galvanized the media and public interest in 2015. Urgenda argued that Article 2 and 8 of the ECHR imposes positive obligations on the government to take precautionary steps against climate change. In Ireland, the recent “Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill” used similar reasoning. 

In the Urgenda case, the court provided a rather political judgement by confirming the State owes a duty of care to its citizens, under Art 2 and 8 ECHR, to reduce greenhouse gases. However, the government argued that the impacts of climate change are too uncertain as a basis for a claim. Such language suggests that the court is reluctant to interfere in such a delicate domain. 

In a similar vein, the Irish NGO ‘Friends of the Irish Environment’ initiated legal action earlier this year to address the government’s contribution to climate change, the so called Climate Case Ireland. This case centers on the government’s approval of the ‘Mitigation Plan’ in 2017, which, it is argued, violates the Climate Action, the Low Carbon Development Act 2015 , human rights obligations, and falls short of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on reducing carbon emissions. Arguably, if the High Court decides to quash the ‘Mitigation Plan’, the right to a healthy environment as a human right would be recognized.      

This case, which is the first in Irish history where citizens are seeking to hold their government accountable for contributing to climate change, is still awaiting judgement from the High Court.

Photo: Thomas Millot via Unsplash

Discover more news stories below or sign up to our newsletter to get our top news straight to your inbox.

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