Re:framing Migrants in European Media
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed millions of people out of their homes and fleeing across borders to escape violence. This tragic situation reveals once again the importance of an inclusive European media space in which newcomers can engage as participants, rather than subjects of public debate. But refugees and other migrants who came to Europe in the past decennia frequently ended up being portrayed as one-dimensional characters, as “others” on a simplistic binary of perpetrators and victims. Their own stories, perspectives and opinions, as multi-faceted persons dreams, fears, friends and family are rarely shared.
In the current context of conflict, climate change and resulting displacement, refugees should not only be welcomed and accommodated, but also supported to become an active participant in society and public debate. Therefore Europe needs a connected and inclusive public space in which individuals from all backgrounds can interact and exchange their perspectives and produce a shared culture.
The pilot Re:framing Migrants in the European Media supports the development of a European public sphere, inclusive inclusive to the perspectives of refugees and migrants. The project run by a consortium of Gazeta Wyborcza (Warsaw), Here to Support (Amsterdam), Eticas (Barcelona), Beyond the Now (Berlin/Dublin/London), ZEMOS98 (Sevilla) and the European Cultural Foundation (Amsterdam). The coalition will research the ways refugees and migrants are currently represented in (social) media, map media and artistic practices inclusive to marganinalised groups, build a community of practice by connecting practices from mainstream and community media, facilitate joint media productions by “tandems” drawn from and draft recommendations to make the public sphere more inclusive to refugees and migrants. The pilot is co-funded by DG Connect of the European Commission.
For refugees and migrants, authorship means being free to decide when, if, and how they are seen concerning their race, nationality, and experiences – rather than that decision being made for them by someone else. The best way to include refugees and migrants in European media is to support them to be in control; provide them the tools to make news, get them on the airwaves and have them in the editorial rooms so that they can have a say in how media operates in Europe.
Existing media practices of separating and/or victimising migrants, as well as reducing their lives to frames of economic and cultural threat are damaging and destructive to the development and well-being of Europe. Having access to European media outlets will enable migrants and refugees to help shape the public debate by sharing their stories. It will also allow them to be seen as a source of talent and potential for growth within Europe. This is exactly what Re:framing Migrants in European Media sets out to do. The status quo will only change when migrants themselves become storytellers as artists, writers, journalists, and broadcasters.
Like the immigration systems refugees and migrants encounter, the media across Europe can be a hostile environment. Sadly, newspapers have too often played on the fear of outsiders, and anyone with an internet connection who wants attention can amplify the same fears. The click-driven media business model that rewards followers over facts actively encourages it as well. At best this has left us in a confusing environment in which it is hard to understand reality in a credible, enlightened fashion. At worst it has privatised the public sphere and made us all pawns in a game played by transnational corporations, pariah states, social media companies and proprietors. This new media reality poses systemic risks to open democratic societies.
The Re:framing Migrants in European Media consortium employs an interdisciplinary approach that includes a variety of expertise from organisations that work in the media (both legacy and independent), civil society, art, and cultural space as well as the tech sector in Europe as a way to address the issues set out above. Our consortium believes that only through active engagement and enabling the agency of migrants and refugees would it be possible to pave the way to integrate trustworthy and meaningful information-sharing about them. Exchange and co-creation through mobilisation of the skills and knowledge of all our partners and their networks is the best strategy we believe will allow for migrant voices and their stories to be heard in the European public sphere.
The project aims at changing current media narratives by convincing the appropriate media representation of migrant and refugee communities across Europe, providing for a space of inclusive and empowering self-representation.
The consortium will use pre-existing and specifically established platforms and tools as well as extend on the challenges and possibilities provided by digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, in relevant media value chains. Another aim of the project is to develop a “best practice[s]” toolbox which would inform the implementation of solutions identified by our algorithmic research. Through the inclusion of different types of stakeholders ranging from established legacy media unions to local community-building and artistic organisations, the project is focused on shaping media narratives that would be both representative and enabling within the context of European societies.