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How to write about migration on the Polish-Belarusian border?

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By Anna Alboth, Europe Media Programmes Coordinator at MRG

How to write about migration on the Polish-Belarusian border?

Background: During the past days and weeks, there are more and more refugees arriving at the Polish border. This is a new topic for Poland, and the government is trying to use the situation for its own gain at a time when international correspondents are arriving to cover the story.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has for many years conducted journalism workshops within the scope of our ‘Media, Minorities and Migration’ programme and would like to share a few short tips with media:

  1. Do not take part in any propaganda machine that seeks to manipulate fear. Avoid any connotations of danger or insecurity if there is no need for it.
  2. Be smart and clear in your message. Describe the situation accurately, instead of using language that will make it unclear to your audience.
  3. In your stories, talk about the individuals and not about ‘a crisis’ and ‘a problem’.
  4. Think about changing your perspective. If you underline the challenges for Poles or Europeans, why do you ignore the tragedy of those going through hell?
  5. Tell the whole story and not only part of it. From where, why and in what state of trauma is a person appearing at the gates of Europe? Who gains from it? Who takes advantage?
  6. Think twice about whom you are quoting and why. Is it just because the person has a title, or because they have knowledge of the field? Talk to those who are close to the situation: local citizens, NGOs on the ground, lawyers.
  7. In the field, behave ethically. Do not come with a big, long camera lens to join the photographers’ safari if you don’t have to. Think about how it feels for someone on the other side of your lens.
  8. Talk to the refugees! A story on migration without quoting any refugees has no standards or values.
  9. Explain to the refugee who you are, and why you would like to talk with her/him. Never promise help if you are not certain that you can definitely organise it.
  10. Reflect on the photos (and titles) you use. Are they screaming, threatening, humiliating? Would you like to be that person yourself in the picture?

For more tips, check out our Covering Migration Toolkit.

Right now, there are many Afghans who are fleeing the Taliban. The dangers to Afghans, especially women and girls, ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBTQI+ persons, are very real. However, be careful about how you write about the Taliban. There is a serious risk of contributing to anti-Muslim hate and Islamophobia towards Muslim minorities in Europe, if media describe the Taliban in very simplistic terms.

Photo credit: Karol Grygoruk / RATS Agency.

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