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Journalists reflect on MRG-organized field-trip under “Media, Minorities, and Migration” programme

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Every few months Minority Rights Group takes journalists interested in the topic of migration directly to the field. Thanks to our network and contacts we are able to organise meetings with key players such as officials, the NGO sector and the migrants and refugees themselves. We have already travelled to Kenya, Greece (Lesbos) and to the Spanish-Moroccan border. It is all under the framework of our EU-funded project “Media, Minorities and Migration”, which invites journalists from Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to learn how to source important stories relating to issues of migration and minorities, how to get coverage for them, and counter the dominant anti-migrant narratives in the media.

We have just come back from another trip: this time to Poland. It was an intense week, full of meetings and experiences. At MRG we are always trying to give journalists a wide range of perspectives: we met with different NGOs working in the field of migration (for example: Polish Migration Forum, foundation Refugee.pl, Helsinki Foundation For Human Rights, La Strada…), with people directly working with a minority group (for example: Ukrainian House or Union of Ukrainians in Poland), with the officials (in the Polish Parliament, with Frontex, and representatives of European Commission), and with Ukrainian start-ups. We also visited a restaurant run by the refugees (Kuchnia Konfliktu) and visited many such sites. We also spent some time with Chechens trying to cross the border and with the Nepalese who have been trafficked into Europe, listening to their stories, hearing about their lives.

Before we share the media outcomes from the trip, here are a few reflections on the journey back home:

Sara Cincurova from Slovakia:

Even though I am always moved by the stories of the people I meet during my reporting trips, I still feel like something particular happened on that train from Belarus to Poland. I am guessing we were the first and only journalists who managed to get inside that wagon for “excluded people”, to witness the anxiety they go through just minutes before they are interrogated as they attempt to enter the EU. I experienced feelings of deep compassion, empathy and pain, but also those of friendship and earnest humanism as I spoke with the women and children on the train. I have found a new kind of meaning to my work, as they thanked me for caring about them and wanting to document their stories. “No-one ever cares about us, no-one ever listens to our stories,” they told me. “Thank you for being able to listen.” I believe that being able to access places and stories like these is one of the privileges of human rights journalism. I am also profoundly saddened by what I have seen and heard, and I will never forget the women I met.

Gergana Georgieva from Bulgaria:

For me it was a really inspirational and educational trip. I got to learn from the more experienced journalists about the ethical boundaries of journalism which has been something I’d always felt insecure about since I don’t have a formal degree in journalism. I also felt that my opinion and views were always taken into consideration which was really empowering and gave me the confidence to follow up on whatever story I had thought of pursuing. I felt like I had an exclusive access to some super important stories which makes me want to do them justice. I feel more confident in covering human rights issues as prior the trip (and perhaps the whole MMM course), I had thought such topics can’t be covered by an early career journalist.

Gergő Lázár from Hungary:

I felt excited about the whole trip and I was really looking forward to it everyday, but I guess obviously the train trip made the biggest difference. It is an experience I think I will never forget. I genuinely think that this trip will help me to be a better journalist. I learned so much from all of you guys, and I am really thankful for the opportunity. MRG – you guys to be precise – made all the difference.

Anna Mikulska from Poland:

MRG gives young journalists like myself an opportunity for firsthand, on-the-ground experience, and contacts directly at the source, to create solid journalistic rigour. On the MRG trips there is a nice mixture of reporters: some have been covering topics of minorities and migration for years and some are just starting this path. Thanks to this, as in my example, I can also learn from others and thanks to this I feel much more confident about my future work too. During the work in the field there are many situations appearing which I would have never expected. I now have much more experience on how to behave in sensitive situations in the future, when I will be doing it on my own. Already after the previous trip I know that thanks to the financial and logistic support of MRG I was able to publish a unique story and started a strong relationship with media houses that I had tried to be in touch before for long time.

Photos from the trip

This project is funded by the European Union.