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European Churches’ Project Addresses Media Portrayal of Migrants

The World Association for Christian Communication-Europe (WACC Europe) and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) launched a project on Dec. 1 to assess media portrayal of refugees and address inaccuracies.

There are three focal points of the yearlong project:

1. Assess media portrayal and representation of refugees in at least five European countries, including countries of first entry, transit and final country granting asylum.

2. Engage with media professionals to highlight good practices.

3. Develop action plans to promote the rights of refugees to communicate on their own behalf.

“Media in Europe play a key role in how refugees are currently perceived in our various countries,” Stephen Brown, president of WACC Europe, said in a press release. “We want to highlight ways in which media promote the rights of refugees to speak on their own behalf and to uphold journalistic practices that challenge fears and disinformation.”

The project is underwritten by several Christian organizations: the Otto per Mille fund of the Waldensian Church in Italy, CCME, the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (Germany), the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches and the World Association for Christian Communication.

The project’s website includes links to articles about the negative impact of skewed, biased or partial news reports about migrants, including a U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) publication explaining the significance of accurate reporting.

“It’s important for editors, reporters, sub-editors and photographers to realize that, when we get it wrong, people suffer directly,” UNHCR emphasized. “Immigrant communities … have told us how inaccurate press articles or broadcasts have even led to violence against them, in some cases.”

Helle Liht, associate general secretary of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), welcomed the initiative.

“So much of the xenophobic attitudes in our societies (and unfortunately sometimes also in our churches) are created by what is circulated in social media, lack of knowledge and understanding, and a fear of others who are different,” she said. “Media is indeed an important tool to address these issues strategically.”

Even though EBF is not directly participating in the project, Liht said EBF would “closely follow the outcomes of the project and where appropriate, communicate the results to our members’ bodies as it is clearly an important topic.”