Inviting Journalists for Constructing Favourable Narratives on Migration

Migration is a multifaceted phenomenon, encompassing both forced and voluntary movements at internal and international levels. On a global scale, migration has the potential to bring positive contributions to the well-being of migrants and the associated communities, both in the country of origin and destination. 

The media have undoubtedly contributed to crafting a shared vision around migration. However, many portraits of migration in the media showed in partial and inaccurate information without considering the true complexity of the issues or highlighting the positive aspects of diversity and economic contributions brought by migrants. As a result, migrants are often perceived negatively as desperate individuals fleeing poverty or conflict, committing criminal acts and terrorism, or spreading disease. Such stigmatization not only facilitates racist acts but also perpetuates repressive measures toward the migrants. 

Against this backdrop, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with the Independence Journalist Alliance (AJI), organized a series of editor gatherings and media workshops for journalists that aimed at changing the narrative around migration. The workshops took place between May and June 2023 in eight cities: Batam, Jakarta, Kupang, Makassar, Medan, Pekanbaru, Surabaya, and Tanjung Pinang; with participation of more than 200 journalists.

IOM Indonesia’s Senior Programme Coordinator, Joshua Thomas Hart, highlighted the role of media in creating public perceptions on migration during his remarks at the final workshop in Jakarta on 22 June. He stated, “I would like to recognize the critical role of the media in portraying the issue of migration, particularly refugees. Wherever in the world, the media is often the main and only source of information when it comes to this issue. If the issue is not properly managed, it will lead to misunderstanding, discrimination and polarization towards migrant issues”. 

“Through these workshops, we would like to invite media professionals to counter misinformation and misrepresentation about refugees and asylum seekers. I hope we will read more nuanced news that helps the public see the whole picture of migration and better understand the positive contribution that migrants and refugees bring,” he added.

During the closing event, Ann Maymann, UNHCR Representative in Indonesia, also recognized the media contribution in raising awareness of refugees. “Thank you for using your journalist work to bring attention to the millions of people around the world who have been forced to flee war, violence, or persecution. By doing that you recognize their plight and lived experience, while also honour their courage, their hopes, and their contributions to host countries. Media can help by raising awareness on the fact that we can all commit to do more to provide more hope, opportunities, and solutions for refugees while they are away from home,” said Ann while inviting the journalists to commemorate the World Refugee Day to honour refugees on 20 June every year.

The events have brought new perspectives to the journalists and inspired them to write different stories of migrants. “The workshop was very useful in increasing knowledge related to migrants' issues. Journalists can explore many sides of migrants,” said Nuraini, Journalist from Harian Haluan Riau.

“This media workshop strongly emphasized several terms that are sometimes overlapping to be used, such as migrant, asylum seeker, and refugee. In addition, this workshop also enriched and encouraged journalists like me to write a narrative that is more empathetic to migrants, including avoiding terms such as illegal migrants and preferring irregular migrants.” said Alvin Qobulsyah, Journalist from SEA Today.

This series of events was organized under IOM’s Refugee Care and Assistance programme. Through this programme, IOM aims to improve the quality of care for migrants, in particular refugees and asylum seekers transiting Indonesia. It is hoped that this series of events can contribute to eliminating negative stigma towards refugees and other migrants and improving their integration into host communities.

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being