Journalists failing in refugee coverage according to Prague conference
A two day series of seminars about media coverage of the refugee crisis in Central Europe and the Baltic States has just wound up in Prague. And most of the messages have not been complimentary about its performance which has often been described as shallow, seizing on disinformation, failing to present a wider picture, and too frequently falling in with local politicians’ take on problems.
Locally, the association has been faced with the jarring disparity that Czechs have some of the most negative perceptions of immigration and foreigners in the whole of Europe while the number of actual immigrants and asylum seekers is one of the lowest in the continent. The head of the charity is Martin Rozumek and he explained what were some of the main conclusions were:
“I think that the basic message is that journalists should look much better at the root causes of migration, use more sources from other countries to describe the refugee and migration situation in Central Europe and not to rely on the speeches and opinions of our politicians because what we see here is a reflection of our politicians’ opinions and not an in-depth analysis of anything going on in, say, Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan - why the people leave and why are some are refugees and some not. That is basically missing here, so we want to highlight this problem at the conference.”
Rozumek says that the media situation in the Czech Republic is probably slightly better than in other Central European countries thanks to public service broadcasters, but their voices are often drowned out by other mainstream media and the increased blurring of the messages by social media and deliberate attempts to distort the truth.
Idnes is the online server of one of the biggest Czech dailies, Dnes, owned by ANO leader and finance minister Andrej Babiš. Seznam is one of the country’s biggest two Internet search engines with a fast expanding media operation, And TV Prime, the commercial broadcaster caught up in a major scandal last year when a tape of tv bosses telling reporters to deliberately paint a negative picture of immigrants and refugees was leaked.
Jakub Janda of the Prague based European Values think tank said many governments are only now starting to address targeted disinformation campaigns often spreading hate. He adds that media education campaigns don’t exist for the public and little is done locally to promote or uphold robust journalistic values.