In honour of today being World Refugee Day, One World Media recognises the importance of journalism in covering refugee crises.
It’s been more than eight years since the civil war in Syria began, and the tragic aftermath of the crisis has somewhat faded from the public’s view. The United Nations reports that 5,000 people are still fleeing Syria every day, and 28% of its population has now been driven from their homes. There are now 9 million Syrians who have fled the country, and a further 6.5 million who have been displaced.
The Syrian Refugee Crisis is one of the largest refugee crises the world has ever seen, it is therefore crucial for the public to stay up to date on the human rights violations that refugees continue to endure. However, over time, relentless coverage of violence can be tricky because while the tragic aftereffects of an event continue for the people of Syria, media outlets tend to move on to new stories.
Agenda-setting is an important facet of journalism. Media have the power to set the trajectory of public discourse through the topics they do—or do not—choose to cover, and the amount of coverage they give to a certain topic. One of the key components of newsworthiness is the timeliness of a story. Thus, as the timeliness of an event decreases, so does its perceived value as a breaking news headline, and thus it tends to receive less overall media coverage.
As the plight of Syrian refugees persists over time, it can be challenging for news publications to continuously report on the subject while simultaneously keeping it fresh, new and hard-hitting. Coverage of this refugee crisis is both decreasing and becoming somewhat repetitive as the struggle goes on. In this situation, it’s up to the media to be constantly finding new ways to tell the story of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, so it doesn’t dwindle in the people’s consciousness.
Journalists have the responsibility to keep finding different and engaging angles from which to tell the story. As the number of journalistic media platforms grow due to technological innovation, there’s an abundance of opportunity regarding the ways in which reporters can relay a story. Journalists must learn how to report on one immense struggle from countless different perspectives. How to keep the story compelling to the news consumers who’ve been hearing about this crisis daily for the past eight years: that’s the obstacle in keeping the public fully aware of the crisis.
As the Syrian refugees continue to suffer and the internal conflict shows no sign of ending, journalists have the ability to continue to remind us of the significance of this crisis. A piece of journalism that does a beautiful job of this is Charlotte Alfreds’ feature article ‘Dangerous Exit: Who Controls How Syrians in Lebanon Go Home’ from NewsDeeply. This excellent article was also a nominee for the Refugee Reporting Award at the 2019 One World Media Awards.
The story touched on a subject that is largely unfamiliar territory: how and if Syrian refugees will return home after the danger in their country is allegedly over. A complicated geopolitical issue, the piece strongly captured the mix of complex emotions that these refugees feel in deciding whether to return to Syria or stay in Lebanon. Despite the fact that the peak of the Syrian Refugee Crisis was years ago, the piece is relevant, profound, moving and most certainly newsworthy. Capturing and publishing these refugees’ stories helps to keep us informed about—and sensitised to—an eight-year-long issue that is still very prevalent today.
The Syrian Refugee Crisis is one of many crises currently happening across the globe. Telling the stories of people whose lives are continually affected by major events, whose wounds persist long after these events have occurred, is important to One World Media. It is why we have an entire award category that highlights refugee reporting. The winner of this year’s Refugee Reporting Award was Channel 4’s documentary ‘Britain’s Refugee Children.’ The film follows six refugee children adapting to their new lives in Britain after fleeing from violence in their home countries. The story speaks straight to the heart, reminding us of the children who continue feel the impact of the refugee crisis every day. The documentary effectively brings the struggle of refugees back into focus for the public, by showing the most innocent among us who are still struggling in the aftermath of having to flee their homes.
The second runner-up in this year’s awards’ Refugee Reporting category was Ryan Lenora Brown’s ‘Tanzania Granted the Largest-Ever Mass Citizenship to Refugees. Then What?’, from the Christian Science Monitor. Another strong example of the important role journalism plays in stories that unfold over time, this feature article tells the story of the long-term displacement of refugees in Tanzania. In the 1970s, many people fled from violence in Burundi and came to Tanzania for safety. Decades later in 2007, the Tanzanian government promised to give citizenship to over 200,000 Burundians and their descendants who’d fled the country; a promise that proved difficult to keep. Thousands of Burundian refugees have yet to receive citizenship and do not know when, or if, they ever will. The Burundian refugees who are now citizens say they still feel ostracized by other Tanzanians. The story poignantly captures the complexity of the relationship between identity and belonging, more than 40 years after the crisis occurred. It reminds the public that these refugees’ lives continue to be affected every day by a past event that most of us have forgotten.
As an organisation, One World Media recognises and celebrates stories in media that not only move people, but remind them of the ever-present atrocities in the world that continue to affect people; even long after they’ve stopped being broadcasted on the front page of every newspaper.
Grace Charles, One World Media Communications Intern 2019
Today marks the 20th annual World Refugee Day. The purpose of World Refugee Day is to raise global awareness of, and support for, the plight of refugees. Every year on this day, United Nations Refugee Agency(UNHCR) and other organizations hold events dedicated to fostering a deeper understanding of current refugee crises. One World Media supports World Refugee Day wholeheartedly, as spreading awareness of international refugee crises is at the heart of our mission, in the hope of galvanizing political activism to address global humanitarian issues.