Student-Journalists Trained on Migration Reporting in The Gambia
Jufureh – To strengthen the coverage of migration issues, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in The Gambia trained 44 student-journalists on migration reporting on 18 and 19 April.
The aim was to engage student-journalists while they are still in the process of learning, to motivate them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills on migration. Most participants attend the University of The Gambia School of Journalism and Digital Media (UTGJSA) that selected migration as the topic for their 2019 retreat. Other participants are from the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication, the Gambia College and two high schools.
The training started with an overview of the migration context in The Gambia with special attention given to irregular migration along the Central and Western Mediterranean Routes, including the voluntary humanitarian return of more than 3,700 vulnerable Gambians between January 2017 and March 2019.
Participants were also trained on key migration concepts and terminologies, including the difference between a migrant and a refugee, trafficking and smuggling, and reintegration and resettlement—prevalent amalgams in Gambian media.
“Migration is something people talk about on mainstream media on a daily basis,” remarks Isatou Keita, President of UTGJSA, on the impetus behind student-journalists’ desire to learn about migration. “We found the need to gain knowledge on how to report or portray migration.”
Through sessions on journalism ethics and techniques for interviewing migrants, participants were further guided on their responsibilities to protect vulnerable migrants and avoid sensationalizing the return and reintegration of almost 4,000 Gambians. Participants immediately put these lessons to the test through two exercises—writing a mock profile of a Gambian returnee and crafting a mock interview strategy for a voluntary humanitarian return operation.
“Migration continues to have a huge impact on the country, so it is important that we talk about it accurately and responsibly. Using certain terms over others can influence the way in which returnees are perceived, and therefore impacts on their reintegration into their communities. This will in turn have an impact on whether reintegration is sustainable,” says Fumiko Nagano, IOM Chief of Mission in The Gambia. “We are confident that student-journalists, who will soon become leading media professionals, will play a key role in ensuring accurate coverage of migration.”
This training forms part of wider efforts in West and Central Africa under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, through which over 400 journalists have been trained since 2018. 26 Gambian journalists were previously trained in January 2018, while another training is planned for June, targeting novice editors and reporters.
“Reporting on migration requires an understanding of migration concepts and trends as well as migrants’ stories and aspiration,” expressed Attila Lajos, Ambassador of the EU to The Gambia, on the significance of the training. “Indeed, migrant protection extends to how society perceives them upon their return and supports them on their path towards reintegration."
The Joint Initiative is funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and covers 26 African countries. The project aims to contribute to migration governance and to support the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants through an integrated approach, which addresses economic, social, and psychological dimensions and fosters the inclusion of communities in the process.