The Role of Community Media for Refugees and Migrants

Published: 27 February 2018

Region: Europe

Refugees_and_Community_Media_StudyThe Council of Europe (CoE) published a study on the role of community media for refugees and migrants – “The Spaces of Inclusion”.  The study was produced by the Community Media Institute (COMMIT) based in Austria and several authors – Salvatore Scifo (Bournemouth University), Jonas Hassemer (University of Vienna), Brigitta Busch (University of Vienna), journalist Nadia Bellardi and Helmut Peissl (COMMIT).

“Whereas the media coverage of the ‘refugee crisis’ and the ways in which refugees are portrayed have been in the focus of a range of academic studies and public debates,” the authors of the study emphasise, “media practices, communication needs and possibilities of participation and self-representation of recently arrived migrants and refugees have been rather neglected.

What role do media in general and community media in particular play for (recently arrived) refugees and migrants in response to their particular needs and with regard to their human right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to information? This is the research question which the authors of this explorative study set out to respond.

Refugees_and_Community_Media_Study_2The Study contains set of recommendations for policy-makers, public service and commercial media, as well as for community media in order to improve migrants’ and refugees’ access to media as spaces of public communication and in order to facilitate their exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Among the central needs expressed by refugees and migrants interviewed, they highlight the role of networks in general – virtual and face to face. Local NGOs, social initiatives and cultural organisations equally play an important role as informal networks that contribute to the shared experiences of newcomers. Access to mainstream media, both as part of the audience and in terms of active participation, is often difficult for newcomers/refugees. As the group of people that is described by the term ‘refugee’ is by far not homogeneous, the barriers encountered are also diverse and are experienced in different ways. Among them are the prevailing monolingual orientation of mainstream media, the lack of metaknowledge relevant to the local media landscape, and the scarcity of available roles as a result from dominant discourses that assign newcomers certain stereotypical roles while denying them acknowledgement as integral parts of the audience.

“These barriers could be overcome by specific projects or more permanent involvement with community media. Because of their open and flexible nature, they offer activities that help bridge language barriers, provide a less constrained space for alternative narratives and selfrepresentation, and accord socially recognised positions for refugees and migrants, where their voices can be heard,” the authors of the study conclude.