This report was commissioned to examine the nature and quality of media stories produced by journalists supported by the Voices of African Migrants pilot programme (see http://migrantvoices.org/), managed by International Media Support (IMS), in four migration ‘Hubs’ in Africa, and explored how local audiences interpreted and responded to those stories. It used content analysis, interviews and focus group discussions.
The research findings show that most stories used human interest frames and foregrounded migrant experiences. The migrants’ main contributions to the stories were to provide a human face to hardships and suffering. Meanwhile, NGOs were included to provide facts, statements of general causes of migrations, statistics, and a sense of scale. Government statements were used to provide a comment on policies and solutions. Most articles were supportive in their sentiments to the plight of migrants.
Participants in the focus groups (especially migrants themselves) recognised that migrant voices were missing from mainstream media reporting on migration, that reporting on migration tends to be negative, and that there are pressing issues relating to migration that need to be discussed in the public sphere.
Focus group participants generally responded with empathy and understanding in response to stories about the hardships migrants face. Some stories provoked a distancing or disruption to understanding, especially when an aspect of the story did not match their prior tacit or cultural knowledge about migration. A small number of stories deeply moved focus group participants.
The report unpacks how an emphasis on ‘voice’ in this context can inadvertently lead to an underinterrogation of systemic and structural issues by individualising, and in some cases, perpetuating a representation of migrants as helpless victims.
Click here for full report.