The way migrants are portrayed by the media has an impact on people. It is necessary to change the discourse and narrative on migration, as well as to combat stereotypes associated with migrants. Furthermore, the fight against fake news, sensationalist and incorrect information has never been so relevant. This was the motto for another moment of sharing, analysis and debate at WorkLab – Antithesis II: Narratives on Migration and the Media, which took place in 25 February 2021, between 5pm and 7pm, online, via Zoom platform, with simultaneous interpretation.
This was the 4th WorkLab held under the project TAS – Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis – Migration Labs and it was facilitated by the (De)Othering project team from the Centre for Social Studies of the Coimbra University, represented by Rita Santos and Sílvia Roque, and the Belgian NGO Vocal Europe, represented by Felix Dejaiffe.
Sílvia Roque started by presenting the (De)Othering project , a 3-year project whose purpose is to deconstruct risk and otherness, by analysing media and political representation and speeches on migrants, refugees and other internally displaced persons in Portugal and in Europe.
With a focus on media narratives associated with the pandemic crisis and related to migrants, refugees and other internally displaced persons, Sílvia Roque highlighted the way how media contribute to the production of otherness seen as “dangerous”, that is, the representation of certain groups as the origin and disseminators of the virus, as well as the frequent use of analogies between pandemic and war: the virus is the “invisible enemy”, stressing “that when we call attention to an enemy that is supposedly invisible, the virus, often what we are actually doing is pointing out visible and real enemies, who are usually the most marginalised groups in society”. Using real examples from the Portuguese media, published between April and November 2020, Rita Santos, a member of the (De)Othering project team, showed situations where the media may have contributed to accentuate “dangerous” otherness, as well as the panic related to migrants, refugees and other internally displaced persons, during the pandemic situation experienced in Portugal.
Felix Dejaiffe, speaker at WorkLab and representative of Vocal Europe, started by putting into context the panorama and evolution of the Belgian media, with a special focus about migration in Belgium and the way the media represent migration, also referring to their impact on public opinion.
“Nowadays we identify different media, newer and more active, especially on social media, making their way on the media landscape in Belgium”, stated Felix Dejaiffe in his presentation, also highlighting that most people in Belgium is actively looking for information on the internet, which shows that “online platforms are making a big difference in media narratives, especially for migrants”.
Using some examples from the Belgian media, the Vocal Europe representative stressed how regional differences in the media and how regional competition between them is helping to change narratives and to give voice to populations such as migrants and refugees, giving as an example a podcast created with the purpose of giving voice to these populations and reinforcing the evolution of the media on migration issues.
This was followed by a debate, during which the participants had the chance to ask various questions to the speakers on the topics presented, namely, how the Belgian media distinguish between migrants from other European countries and migrants from countries outside Europe, as well as the impact that the way the media represent this duality has on public opinion.
The debate was followed by the exhibition of one of the videos from the Life Stories cycle, created by the project TAS – Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis – Migration Labs, in which Sollange Binhã tells us her Life Story. How she departed from Guinea-Bissau. The refugee camp in Senegal. The arrival in Portugal with refugee status. The impact that this event had on her life. The story she built in Portugal. The Founder.
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