One of the issues that came out of conversations had in the framework of the Refugees Reporting project with representatives of refugees groups and media professionals was the limited opportunities for both groups to meet, interact and discuss. It is in this spirit then, that a consultation between journalists and refugees’ representatives was organised on Friday 15 September in Brussels.
The closed-door discussion offered a chance for constructive engagement centered around the idea that meeting and getting to know each other is the first step in the building of a more fruitful and productive relationship. Starting with a presentation of preliminary results of the media monitoring, the discussion then focused around some key issues: how can journalists ensure a more meaningful participation of refugee women, how can refugees more proactively reach out to journalists and how to build trustworthy relationships between refugees and journalists.
Broader topics touched upon were the role of journalism in a perspective of advocacy vs. reporting, the importance of media in times of extreme rights rising and the power of social media in reaching audiences and goals that may otherwise be difficult to reach. Examples of good and bad practices were further shared by both sides, with useful tips provided to the refugees’ representatives by media professionals on how to better reach out with ideas for stories and interviews.
An interesting point raised by some of the media professionals were the sometimes overprotective NGOs and activists organisations: while it was agreed that in principle the protection of those the organisations work for is a good behaviour, this can lead to some being ‘protected’ even when they did not ask for such protection. This was clear in the cases of blanket media bans in refugee camps, when it was not adequately asked to all residents whether they wanted to speak with the media or not.
Though clearly not everyone in the room agreed on the same points, and there were even different understandings of what ‘reporting’ means, the engagement of participants throughout the discussion was truly commendable and demonstrated a real necessity of a more constant dialogue between the groups, with so much to learn on both sides.
A more detailed overview of the discussion and inputs shared by participants will be included in the project’s final report, which will be presented to the public on 16 November 2017 in Brussels.