An Oxford-based student campaign network group has today launched a set of principles aimed at improving media’s portrayal of migrant issues.
People & Planet developed the list in coordination with migrant activists, young migrants, and members of the media. It includes proposals such as a moratorium on the use of the phrase “illegal immigrants” in favour of more humanising terms, more direct input from migrants in coverage of their issues, and the neutralisation of racial prejudice in media coverage.
The student group, in conjunction with the Migrant Rights Network, hopes to encourage figures in media and politics to sign up to the principles, and in doing so give migrants a role in setting their own narrative, as opposed to merely being the subject of someone else’s.
The representation of migrants has been a hot button issue for the last half decade. Coverage of, and response to, migrants and migration has varied widely, with the response to the picture of the young Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, dwarfed by the number of inflammatory and hateful opinion pieces that have made their way into the British papers.
“Each day we see multiple headlines with ‘illegal immigrant’, often preceded by ‘swarms’, ‘cockroaches’ or ‘insert negative and vilifying adjective here’,” said Neelam Rai, the Campaigns and Movement Building Coordinator at People & Planet.
“This has a result, even if we do not think that we believe these headlines. Seeing these negative labels applied to black and brown bodies in the UK affects that way in which we view the world.”
For the organisation, the principles are about ensuring fairness and accuracy in reporting in an environment where provocative language used to describe migrants tends to obfuscate the issues and mislead the public.
“We are hoping to shift the narrative in the mainstream but also hoping that the wider public will agree with the principles of accurate and fair reporting on migration,” said Rai.
People & Planet is also working collaboratively with outside groups to create a more comprehensive “Charter for Ethical Reporting on Migration” which they say will outline how the recommendations may be implemented in day-to-day journalism.
To begin with, the initiative is aimed primarily at journalists who are already aligned with the general principles, as opposed to those they may think are less likely to take them on board.
“Working closely with journalists who support the charter principles will be central to widening out the influence the charter has on journalists that are contributing to the problem,” said Rai.
Notable people who have already pledged adherence to the principles include writer and environmental activist George Monbiot, as well as Green Party co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley.
Campaigners will have pledged to engage with politicians to change the harmful discourse surrounding migrants.
Participation in the initiative is open to everyone. People & Planet is urging people to contact their local MP and University lecturers to ask them to sign up to the principles.
There is also a petition to stop the media from using the word ‘illegal migrants’ in the media here.
Tweet, message and share this page with journalists, writers, editors and politicians and ask them to sign up to the ten principles for #migrationreporting.