Guidelines For Reporting on Refugees According to The European Press

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As part of a wider effort to endorse globalization, “more than 150 European radio outlets and nearly 1,300 journalists […] have joined together to help strengthen media coverage of migrants and minorities, an indispensable tool in the fight against hate speech.”

These RESPECT WORDS guidelines begin with a lengthy introduction, explaining that the media has “tremendous power to shape public opinion,” apparently especially important during “a time of increasing intolerance toward migrant and minority groups.”

This is not the first attempt to control the narrative relating to migration, but perhaps it is the most brazen. The guidelines specifically endorse censorship, reminding journalists to “keep in mind that sensitive information (e.g., racial/ethnic origin; religious philosophical or other beliefs; political party or union affiliation; health and sexual information) should be mentioned only when necessary for the audience to understand the news.” Journalists should also refrain from “focusing on sensationalist incidents involving migrants.”

Some might argue that it isn’t a journalist’s responsibility to determine what information is too “sensitive” for the public eye.

Guidelines such as these are surely the product of “Coulter’s Law,” which, according to UrbanDictionary, “dictates that the longer that it takes the media to identify the shooter the less likely he is white and Christian.”

Perhaps the most startling aspect of a piece like this is the underlying assumption that it is the responsibility of the press to shape public opinion. Journalists are reminded not to “fall into the trap of focusing solely on possible negative aspects of large-scale migration,” instead, they should “highlight positive contributions of migration and individual migrants.”

Journalists are reminded they don’t need to “include extremist perspectives just to ‘show the other side.'” Although, it is necessary to “provide an appropriate range of points of view, including those of migrants and members of minority communities themselves.”

The guidelines encourage reporters to “put migration movements in context” by reminding Europeans that the thousand-year-old crises in the Middle East are connected “to policies and practices of European states.” Of course, journalists must also “keep in mind that there is no structural connection between migration and terrorism.”

Although these issues are often complex, it seems inappropriate to pretend that the only way to practice “ethical journalism” is to adhere to the talking points of European politicians.

Although this document is specifically addressed to the European press, it isn’t difficult to find parallels to the media within the United States.

A study by Pew Research shows that when covering events, the majority of Americans prefer the news media to “present facts without interpretation.”

Explicitly or not, these “guidelines” seem to affect almost every mainstream press organization on the planet. Accordingly, it is unsurprising that Americans who support Donald Trump prefer to see “the facts” without media interpretation by a 21% percent margin.

William Raskopf contributed to this article