By Kemiso Wessie
Reporting on migrants, refugees and asylum seekers demands a thoughtful and ethical approach, according to Amaka Obioji, the co-founder and managing editor of Diaspora Africa, a dedicated media platform sharing stories about Africans within the continent and across the diaspora.
The site explores immigration’s intersections with gender, education, climate change, refugee politics, LGBTQ+ rights and social inclusion. Actively engaged in grassroots data collection, solutions journalism, and evidence-based research, Diaspora Africa is reshaping reporting standards in Africa by documenting the complexities of immigration.
Obioji offers a guideline with nine points, which journalism educators should also use:
- Maintain objectivity and humanity
Amidst the complexities of migration stories, objectivity remains important. Journalists, Obioji argues, should report facts devoid of bias and discriminatory narratives. At Diaspora Africa, they encourage journalists to go beyond the surface, urging them to employ a human-angle approach. “Challenging hate and ensuring inclusivity are essential principles that journalists should uphold in their reporting,” adds Obioji.
- Cultural sensitivity in reporting
Obioji says that cultural sensitivity is paramount when reporting on minority and migration stories. Journalists need to understand the beliefs, values, and cultural attributes of the populations they cover. Amaka Obioji suggests that journalists and journalism educators must also respect and appreciate diverse cultures, recognising that cultural understanding is crucial for responsible reporting.
- Showcasing positive precedents in reporting
The “40 Stories: Life in Diaspora” report by the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies at San Francisco State University is highlighted by Obioji as an exemplary migration report. The report delves into the complexities of belonging, offering diverse perspectives on the diaspora experience. She says that aspiring journalists can learn from such positive precedents to shape their approach to migration reporting.
When reporting on the traumatic experiences of migrants, empathy is key. Obioji outlines crucial considerations for journalists, such as researching the community, obtaining informed consent, and maintaining a calm and empathetic demeanour during interviews. These practices help build trust and ensure responsible reporting on sensitive subjects. Obioji emphasises the importance of honesty, transparency, and informed consent in interviews. Fully educating interviewees about the purpose of the report, ensuring their comfort, and prioritising their safety are central to fostering empathy and care in journalism.
- Accuracy Over Clickbait
Accuracy is the overriding value that virtually all journalism organisations agree on and in an era of “clickbait” journalism, Obioji stresses the importance of the journalism values of accuracy and context. Journalists and educators should prioritise uncovering verifiable facts from trusted sources, steering clear of rumours, speculations, or the injection of personal opinions, especially when dealing with sensitive or complicated topics such as migration.
Journalists should adopt a human-rights-based approach when reporting on migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Understanding and using correct terms is essential to avoid perpetuating stereotypes, responsible reporting requires a commitment to accuracy and respectful language. When reporting on personal stories, ethical dilemmas will arise particularly when involving children. Through it all journalists must strike a balance between telling compelling stories and respecting individuals’ privacy. Informed consent, protection of identities, and careful consideration of the potential impact on vulnerable migrants are crucial aspects to ensure responsible storytelling.
- Building relationships
Collaborations with local communities and NGOs are essential for balanced reporting and provide opportunities to pool resources, ensure safety, share expertise and strengthen the impact of reporting. Obioji encourages aspiring journalists to build networks and connections that amplify community stories.
- Bias and stereotypes
Obioji acknowledges the historical stereotyping and stigmatisation of migrants and refugees by the media. She recommends guidelines from the Ethical Journalism Network, focusing on transparency, fair reporting, and fact-based journalism. Diaspora Africa actively works to produce content free from bias and stereotypes, aiming to reshape immigration reporting positively.
- Resources for journalism educators
To better prepare students for reporting on migration, Obioji suggests a shift toward solution-oriented journalism. Rather than solely highlighting problems, journalists and educators should explore and demand solutions in their reporting. This approach fosters a constructive perspective on migration-related issues.
Obioji states that journalists and journalism educators should prioritise objectivity, sensitivity and collaboration to contribute to a more informed and compassionate understanding of migration issues in Africa and beyond. Responsible reporting can reshape narratives and create a more inclusive dialogue surrounding immigration, she says.