Changing Faces of Religion and Religion Journalists

Published: 26 September 2014

Region: Europe

Reporting_ReligionThe gradual rises of certain narratives in Europe that are anti-diversity and anti-tolerance are particularly affecting various religious groups, immigrants, and minority groups in general. Very importantly, they constitute a challenge for the media and journalists in portraying and representing otherness.

Representing the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) at the conference organized by the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ), Edmundo Bracho, a visiting lecturer at Westminster University, said: “In terms of religion and immigration, two focal problems that the European media is facing in recent times are the moral panics towards immigrants from Albania, Bulgaria, and specially Rumania on the one hand; and on the other, the coverage of Islam in Europe under the globalized discourse of the ‘war on terror’”.

The International Association of Religion Journalists and Birkbeck University of London organised a conference in September discussing the pressing issues about religion in Europe and the ways in which religion journalists can promote and practice an ethical coverage of these recent social changes in the region.

MDI was invited to take part in the event “Diversity Rising: The Changing Faces of Religion and Religion Journalists in Europe.”

Religion journalists Astrid Dalehaug-Norheim and Elisa Di Benedetto explained the effects that recent Muslim migration are having in the social composition of both North and South Europe, how this is being portrayed by the media, and how the stories of these groups can be covered through responsible and inclusive journalism.

All three panellists emphasised the importance of spending adequate lengths of time with individual members of the religious or marginalised groups. “Journalists need to develop the ability to both empathise and become knowledgeable about the subject matter, about the individuals they are portraying and giving a voice to,” said Bracho.

Additionally, it emanated from the discussion that journalists must also pay attention to government policies on religion and migration, and monitor to what degree these promote diversity and the rights of religious and minority groups. In this sense, it is important that journalists, when assessing policies of immigration and citizenship, offer the broad society valuable and responsible information about where a nation stands in terms of immigration policies and religion rights.