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JIFORM urges journalists to dispel disinformation on migrants, refugees

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The 2021 3-day international migration webinar focusing on media training organized by the Asia-Pacific Broadcast Institute {AIBD}, International Organization for Migration {IOM} and the World Health Organization {WHO} beamed from Malaysia came to a close on Tuesday with a clarion call by the Journalists International Forum For Migration,{JIFORM} on media practitioners to use the tools of journalism to dispel disinformation about migrants and refugees.

Speaking as a guest speaker /panelist on a topic titled Forging Forward: Solution Driven Media Reporting on Migration and Refugees, Ajibola Abayomi, the President/Executive Director of JIFORM comprising over 300 journalists covering migration across the continents said media professionals were at vintage position to reel out undiluted information about migrants and refugees and should continue to do the needful.

He pleaded with journalists to eschew any act of primordial sentiment that could encourage xenophobic attack and urged them to focus on quality information that could promote justice for the migrants being abused in the Middle East under the Kafala slavery system and those whose wages were being withheld in several parts of the world.

“We all saw what happened in South Africa two years ago. Media should not be part of those spreading false information about the migrants and refugees at any level. Migrants are economic developers while refugees deserve empathy and protection. The South Africa saga was regrettable and should not happen again.

Ajibola recommended that every journalist should key into the United Nations Verified Campaign to stem the tide of disinformation, saying JIFORM supports the position of the UN Secretary General, Antoni Guterres who urged us to “flood internet with fact and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation-a poison that is putting even more lives at risk.” Currently, there are around 272 million international migrants in the world according to the IOM; JIFORM posited that “therefore we need to display the instinct of humanity when reporting matters that affect them.

“Misrepresentation will have negative consequences on this huge population and at the end of the day we won’t be doing any good by not being fair to them. It should be justice for all. The voice of the migrants must be heard. Reporting government and immigration police positions alone is unethical and one-sided. Our report as public watch dog must be truthful, balanced and objective.

“The work of journalists consists reporting on particular stories in a global historical, socioeconomic, cultural and geopolitical context. The journalist identifies and questions clichés and stereotypes by getting back to facts and replacing them in their context. He or she deconstructs the speeches that criminalize migrants and consider them a threat. Considering the complexity of migratory issues, journalist diversifies sources of information, journalistic genres, themes and angles. Make use of the right terminologies” Ajibola said.

Any journalist covering migration issues according to him should question the origin and impact of terms he/she uses. “Journalist does not use pejorative and legally unsuitable words such as “illegal”: a human being is not “illegal”, we prefer the term “in an irregular situation.” He/she uses the terminology and concepts that are in conformity with the international law and human dignity.

The JIFORM president counseled that migration journalists should not allow hatred, racism, discrimination to becloud the judgment on migrant news stories adding that media practitioners should decrypt and go beyond speeches of hatred, racism, xenophobia and discrimination with empathy and vigilance.

“Journalists should be sensational in their write ups and must get the informed consent of the migrants before interviewing or using their photos and must protect the minors. He must never accept to pay to obtain a testimony and respects the culture, religion and traditions of the people he/she interviews and remain alert to stereotypes or clichés which, in every society, tend to stigmatize “the other,” the foreigner.

Other members of the panel were Director of Karpos, Media Educator, Centre of Education & Intercultural Communication, Athens, Greece, Shafiq Ahmad Editor/Journalist-In-Charge of Asia-Pacific Desk for Anadolu Agency Turkey, Ankara with Malarvili Meganathan, Media & Communications Consultant, Trainer IOM-UN Migration Malaysia as moderator.

JIFORM was formed in 2018, headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria and is reputable for being the organizer of annual global migration summit, several workshops / training for journalists, and in February 2021, organized the maiden African Migration Summit in partnership with the Nekotech Center of Excellence, in Accra Ghana.

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