Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
Journalists have been urged to play a leading role in shaping public opinion and perception when reporting issues relating to migration to avoid fueling discrimination for the migrants.
Speaking during a virtual training for journalists and media practitioners being coordinated by the International Labour Organisation, South Africa based independent migration consultant, Mr Vincent Williams said discrimination has been one of the major issues affecting migrants.
He said it is important for members of the fourth estate to acquaint themselves with international instruments on migration so as to avoid stocking conflicts.
“Discrimination can lead to exclusion, denial of opportunities and inequalities between different groups in society-in extreme cases, it is also an underlying cause of physical violence against specific groups of people,” said Mr Williams.
“Therefore, it is very critical that as journalists you be at the forefront of shaping opinions, perception, through the dissemination of correct information in the correct terminologies.
“In fact, you need to tell the migration story in context, verify the accuracy and validity of information including that from public officials, engage directly with the migrants or their associations and get their story”.
He said it was very important for the media to promote a positive image of migrants.
The official said the use of discriminatory or inflammatory language in news reports must be avoided at all costs.
He said the story of the positive contribution by migrants to the destination and home countries’ economies has not been completely told.
“The lack of information or deliberate misinformation is detrimental to combating challenges around migration.
I urge the members here to strive to equip themselves with international treaties and policies. This will help you to have a clear understanding of this subject and become a leading force in changing the negative perceptions,” he said.
Mr Williams said although there were a number of international treaties or policies, many countries or governments were yet to ratify them.
This, he said, was driven by fear of social strife, pressure on domestic policies, and the lack of understanding of the policy frameworks.
He said the media should be actively involved in bridging that information gap.
“The context in which the policies are applied differ from country to country depending on the issues obtaining for a particular nation,” said Mr Williams.
“However, South Africa is one of the countries with a well-defined migration policy in the region which recognizes its impact in the world.
We need the media to play its part in unpacking all these issues across the Sadc region”.
He said of late, social media has been awash with the purveyors of hate speech and hence governments should come up with enforceable legal instruments to deal with such a challenge.