Media Narratives on DisplacementVIEW EVENT DETAILS
The final in our four-part series on mobility, displacement and refugees in South Asia
The verse, "No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark," extracted from Warsan Shire's poignant poem "Home" eloquently captures the desperation that compels individuals to abandon their homelands. It beckons us to delve into the profound motivations that drive people to seek refuge, while also evoking the haunting image of a lifeless three-year-old Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach, forever immortalized by Nilüfer Demir's camera in 2015. This image served as a global awakening to the Syrian refugee crisis, urging contemplation on the influence of language and representation.
However, the intended effect of invoking reflections on the human side of this narrative can be undermined when media outlets or influential entities, such as traditional news media, social media, celebrities, or politicians, selectively emphasize certain aspects or convey flawed messages. This is where Critical Discourse Analysis, a theoretical framework offers valuable insights into this phenomenon. It analyzes language, power, and ideology, exploring how meaning is produced in discourse. It uncovers the influence of ideology on text, its response, and their connection to social structures and power dynamics. Additionally, understanding the Agenda-Setting theory that refers to the mutual influence between different news sources and how this impacts the information that is ultimately presented to the public becomes crucial for comprehending how traditional media can shape public perceptions. The sequencing and selection of news, determined by influential media organizations, can significantly impact both smaller media players and the wider audience. The media coverage, visual imagery, and linguistic portrayal of the refugee crisis, therefore, hold the power to either perpetuate stereotypes, stoke fear, and promote prejudice, or foster empathy, challenge misconceptions, and encourage social inclusion.
Research conducted by international human rights bodies, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), emphasizes the critical role of language in discussions concerning refugees. In their publication titled "Refugees are not the crisis. It's the narratives we tell about them," they assert that engaging various stakeholders, including the media, policymakers, and the public, is essential for challenging and transforming the dominant narratives about refugees. By promoting positive narratives that highlight the potential and aspirations of refugees, it becomes possible to reshape public perceptions and attitudes towards them. Additionally, another UNHCR publication addresses the importance of using the terms "migrant" and "refugee" correctly, as they are often used interchangeably in media and public discussions. However, there is a crucial legal difference between the two, and confusing them can lead to problems for refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as misunderstandings in discussions of asylum and migration. It emphasizes the need to treat all human beings with respect and dignity while ensuring that the human rights of migrants are respected and providing an appropriate legal and operational response for refugees.
In this context, it becomes essential to question the impact of media representations on public perceptions. How can we ensure a balanced and accurate portrayal of the refugee crisis in media coverage? How do flawed narratives contribute to stereotypes and prejudice against refugees especially those from the global south? Furthermore, how can language be harnessed to challenge misconceptions and foster empathy towards refugees? What role can policymakers, media outlets, and the public play in reshaping dominant narratives about refugees?
Lastly, how can we promote a better understanding of the legal differences between migrants and refugees in public discussions? What are the consequences of using these terms interchangeably, and how can we ensure respect for the rights and dignity of all individuals while addressing the challenges of asylum and migration?
Join us on July 19th between 6 and 7:30 pm to explore these questions and engage with our expert panel comprising of Preethi Nallu, Global Director at Report for the World, Sukhmani Khorana, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, UNSW Sydney and Pari Saikia, Human Rights Journalist. They will analyze the significance of language and vocabulary in media and mass communication when portraying refugee situations originating from or occurring in South Asia.
This panel is the final instalment of the four-part series Lands, Borders and People, scheduled as interactive learning modules in June and July 2023. The series aims to delve into a significant contemporary issue that impacts nations and communities globally: migration, displacement, and refugees. In each session, a panel of experts will examine various aspects of this topic, focusing on the legal, social, economic, and cultural dynamics specific to South Asia. The audience will comprise stakeholders actively involved in this sector, including human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, NGOs, and others Priyali Sur, Founder and Director of The Azadi Project will serve as the chair and moderator for all four sessions.
The four sessions in this series are:
June 8: International Law and the Politics of Displacement
June 15: Climate
July 5: The host economy
July 19: Media and language
To register your interest in this session, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The chapters will be hosted as Zoom meeting rooms, so they require pre-registration and have limited seating. Once you write to us, we will send you a Google form with more details, and links to the session closer to the date.
CHAPTER 4: SPEAKERS
Sukhmani Khorana is an Associate Professor and Scientia Fellow in the School of Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales (Australia). She previously served as a Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University. With a focus on media diversity, multi-platform refugee narratives, and the politics of empathy, Sukhmani has an extensive publication record. Her notable works include "Mediated Emotions of Migration: Reclaiming Affect for Agency" (Bristol University Press, 2022) and "The Tastes and Politics of Inter-Cultural Food in Australia" (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2018). Sukhmani is also an active contributor to various media outlets and is regularly featured in 'The Conversation,' where she discusses issues of representation and migration in Australia and the Global North.
Pari Saikia is an independent human rights journalist and documentarian from New Delhi, India. She has received the prestigious 'Modern Slavery Unveiled' grant by journalismfund Europe on three occasions. Pari's investigative work on bride trafficking of Rohingya women earned her the Grand Prize at the European Commission's Lorenzo Natali Media Prize 2021. With a focus on human trafficking, modern-day slavery, refugees, and migration, Pari has contributed to prominent media platforms including Vice World News, VICE Italia, The Wire, The Guardian, OZY, and Tehelka. In 2021, she was selected as one of the 49 journalists worldwide for Youtube's Creator Program For Independent Journalists, where she launched Asia's first human trafficking documentary channel. Pari, along with activists and lawyers, currently leads an awareness campaign called #kNOwHumanTrafficking, educating the public through video series, silent marches, and providing legal aid and counseling. Follow Pari on Twitter for updates on her work.
Preethi Nallu is a journalist, filmmaker, press freedom advocate, and global director at Report for the World, a journalism service program that supports specialized reporters in 20 countries and 32 newsrooms. She played a key role as a founding editor at Refugees Deeply. With a diverse background, having been born in Iran and raised in India, Preethi's career has taken her to 14 countries across the global north and south. She has conducted extensive research, reported on, and campaigned for humanitarian and media development issues. Preethi's films and reports have been recognized with two Webby awards, two Migration Media awards, and a Human Rights Press Award. Throughout her career, she has worked with prominent media outlets such as Al Jazeera English and Foreign Policy, as well as global think tanks like Chatham House. Additionally, she has led multimedia campaigns for renowned organizations including the UN, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and International Media Support (IMS). In her most recent role as co-editor at Mediabridge, supported by IMS, she collaborated with an Indian design team to create a digital platform called &all and facilitated partnerships between media entities of different sizes.
SERIES MODERATOR AND CHAIR
Priyali Sur is the Founder and the Executive Director of The Azadi Project. She has built and implemented programs across Europe, Africa and South Asia, helping refugees and migrants from Afghanistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Niger, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen. She was a former news anchor for CNN-IBN in India, and has consulted as a Social Development expert for the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Her work has been published in CNN, NPR, PBS, and The Guardian, among other international media outlets.