On 17 May 2017, a transnational workshop was organised for the six participating countries in the EU funded Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings and Organised Crime - Phase 2 project, on the role of mass media in improving the public's awareness about trafficking in human beings (THB). The workshop focused on the different aspects of reporting on THB crimes and the victims, the current good and bad practices, the impact and consequences of media reporting on victims and on public perception of THB in general.
Participants from the six participating countries; Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova, Pakistan and Turkey included anti-THB stakeholders, editors from major media outlets, PR managers for anti-THB state institutions, and NGOs dealing with media and journalist training. The workshop was supported by a number of international experts on trafficking, working with the media, and reporting on THB.
See photos of the event here.
ICMPD Director General, Mr. Michael Spinderlegger opened the workshop, noting the potential of the media to reach large numbers of individuals, and it's corresponding capacity to be either a positive or negative force in action against trafficking in human beings. He stressed that the quality of media coverage on THB varies greatly, with the knowledge of human trafficking among journalists differing from country to country and that their is a need to fill the current gap in cooperation between state and NGO anti-trafficking actors and media stakeholders.
Following this, Ms. Elisa Trossero, Head of ICMPD's Anti-Trafficking Programme, presented the aims and concept of the workshop and highlighted some of the key issues including confusion between migration and trafficking in human beings, lack of accurate information and issue of sensational reporting in the context of re-victimising victims.
Mr. Tamme De Leur, a Human Trafficking and Media Expert, presented parts of relevant filmography that he was involved in producing. Highlighting the key issues related to media reporting on THB. He highlighted that THB per se is complex and that influences the complexity of reporting. Some of the challenges that he highlighted include: law enforcement security and privacy (crime centred approach), human rights – victim’s centred approach, gender perspective (role of gender in THB), migration challenge (reports), politics (waterbed theory), economics (supply/demand and follow the money), technology, corporate law, healthcare, multidisciplinary approach and education. He stated that role of media is to inform the public, display different views, uncover injustices and put news in context. Some of the challenges that media face include news credibility, lack of resources, impact of online media, media ownership and discrediting the press. Some common mistakes include: superficial sensationalism, competition in the media market, lack of time, commercialization of media and celebritization of human trafficking.
Following this, brief presentations were presented by each country delegation. The presentation for Moldova, Pakistan and Turkey are available at the bottom of this page, along with all the presentations by experts during the event.
Panel II - Deconstructing a Case
Panel II focused on deconstructing cases of investigative reporting on THB, presented by Saša Leković, investigative journalist and director of the Investigative Journalism Centre (Croatia), and Olga Ceaglei, editor and coordinator for RISE Moldova (Moldova). Some of the key points from this panel were:
- Journalists must protect a victim’s identity. Make sure to have the agreement of the family if it’s necessary to show faces, etc., especially in case of minors.
- Even if the journalists hide the identity of the victim in their materials, mistakes can be made and victims can be recognized from the surroundings, small details, etc. Journalists should be careful when offering or showing any details, and get the agreement of the victim or her family.
- Internet is largely used as a tool to recruit THB victims and find “clients”.
- A Google search can often reveal many connections and information.
- There is the need to go deeper into the story, to see what details can be found.
- Security for the journalists is a serious issue.
- When facing threats one of the solutions can be to make everything public and to create public pressure.
- While making information public, if possible, make it under the control of law enforcement, to prevent traffickers escaping.
- Establish collaboration between journalists and law enforcement, share information and maintain communication (even if unofficial). Media cannot tackle the problem acting alone, neither can law enforcement. There is the need to cooperate and join forces. The role of media is to tell everyone what is happening.
- To prevent and fight THB, make joint raids: journalists and police.
- Don’t become investigative journalist if you don’t know how to do it. Be careful not to cross the line. Though sometimes this is necessary to reach higher results, but does the result justify the means?
- It’s important for the journalists to push for the stories and follow-up the stories. Try to find what happened, and remember that a good story can die because of journalists. When possible, put information into pieces and publish several articles, and don’t hurry to publish everything you know. Not revealing all the information can also protect the journalist, as the traffickers don’t know what he/she knows.
Panel III - Responsible Reporting
Panel III focused on two key issues; the effect and consequences of media reporting on the victim and close relations, presented by Marija Anđelković, Director, NGO ASTRA (Serbia); and what the anti-trafficking community expects from the media and what the media actually reports, presented by Elena Krsmanović, journalist, doctoral researcher at the Utrecht University.
- Ms. Andjelkovic explained the negative consequences of irresponsible reporting on the investigation and court procedures, recovery and reintegration of victims and psychological consequences. She provided several examples of cases in which the victim's identity was not protected sufficiently. Whether due to negligence or on purpose the victims were recognized after the stories were published. She also expressed a distinct lack of informed consent concerning the content and the ramification of the publication of the stories.
- Lastly, she provided practical advice on tackling these issues. Her suggestions were, that great care be taken to protect the identity of the victims, that authorization be requested from the victim before publishing, that all procedures be followed to the letter, that the victims are listened to without judgement and that people are not insistent when dealing with victims, that a proper investigation is carried out with multiple sources and that the case is monitored closely.
- Ms. Krsmanovic analyzed the subject matter from three different angles (media report, media experts and anti-trafficking) and provided suggestions for improvement of collaboration between the two parties (journalists and representatives of the anti-trafficking community).
- She proposed that the anti-trafficking community use appropriate language (avoiding legal terms and long sentences), help the media get something they can use (thinking about what translates into a good story), give alternatives such as case studies with a mixture of stories, so as to protect the identity of victims and to avoid facilitating contact between journalists and victims, tell them about inadequate terminology that mustn’t be used and refuse to take part in harmful practices (communication with certain media outlets who tend to harm victims) and to write as experts on platforms, such as Thomson Reuters. She believes that journalists could devote more time to their story and do proper investigation, explore new angles, be critical, think about the consequences, give in return (help the anti-trafficking community bring up a topic in media, by convincing the editors that it’s suitable).
Panel IV - The Media Perspective - What Media Needs to Work Better
Panel IV focused on two questions: How and who are to help the journalists? presentated by Svetlana Svistunova, independent journalist & filmmaker (Russia); and, guidelines and handbooks that assist journalist in reporting on human trafficking cases presentation by Vera Gracheva, expert (Russia).
- Ms. Svistunova focused on the experience of journalists in Russia. In Russia 350 journalists were killed during the previous 15-17 years. Being a journalist is dangerous and they may face threats. Journalists should think about their own protection. It is difficult to work with police because sometimes police may be involved in the criminal activity.
- Safety trainings for journalists is provided by the International Federation of Journalists. Russian Union of Journalists regularly provides these seminars and trainings. NGO “Stellit” provides trainings for the students of Moscow State University. They also provide trainings on safety for journalists in Makhachkala, Azerbaijan etc. They made a film on this topic: “The Big Trip to the Caucasus. Journalist’s Safety Guide” The film has recommendations how to act in dangerous situations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM5OeeL9Ic4
- In 2011 UN Women started a special programme for journalists who write about migration, including THB. The idea was to take journalists to the countries of origin of migrants in Russia and Kazakhstan. A group of journalists went to Tajikistan, resulting in a change of perception around migration and THB by the journalists
- Mr Soren Bauer, Senior Communication and Knowledge Officer, ICMPD presented the results of a study by 17 journalists who critically reflect on how their national media have addressed the challenge of reporting on migration. Some of the key challenges identified were; Media is a magnifying glass but also a distorting lens that can increase the suffering by inspiring hate and discrimination; Even knowledgeable journalists tend to interpret migration only as immigration; Strong focus on refugees or irregular migration, little about positive or mainstream aspects; Need for training and more knowledgeable journalists.
- Key points to take away from the research included; Media in each country is different, there is diversity; all stakeholders have to understand the constraints placed on medial; when focusing on education about complex issues, partners need to educate media rather than blame them for lack of knowledge; You cannot change tabloid media – it’s their business model; Media needs feeding with data and info; Good associations of journalists in Italy and Greece can serve as an example.
- Finally, Ms. Gracheva presented available guidelines and resources for journalists to use when reporting on THB. The conclusions of her assessment were:
- Media is a strong social partner in raising public awareness, in attracting attention of the authorities to the issue; in changing the attitude towards THB victims; in creating the climate of intolerance towards all forms of exploitation.
- This happens only if… journalists are fully aware of the trafficking problem, they adhere to the “do no harm” principle, they know how to treat victims (especially children) in investigation and reporting, if they know all basics of “DO’s” and DON'Ts
Conclusions Panel IV:
- Use only reliable info
- Learn more about THB
- Think about self-security
- Be ethical towards the victims
- Always remember that trafficking is a very serious organized crime. No article is more important than life!
- THB is a “living creature” – easily adapts
- Training for media is important and needed
- Media can do more in raising the anti-trafficking awareness
- Manuals should be enriched by modern research, should be revised and updated
- Manuals should not be ignored, should be implemented
- Manuals need to be reused and adapted
- Focus on reinforcing positive examples and approaches (through awards etc)
- The role of policy-makers
- Building Dialogues: Understanding migration and a culture of civil discourse
OVERALL CONCLUSIONS OF THE WORKSHOP
- Journalists have the power of activism, of stirring politicians, civil society, the ability to bring up issues.
- Media, civil society and law enforcement should work hand in hand to make the world a safer place for everyone.
- There are lots of refugee camps out there. We should have visited them, talked to them and seen what they’ve been through.
- There are two parts to any story: 1. Beginning of the journey 2. End of the journey. Journalists should have access to both parts. Start exchange through professional associations.
- One day is not enough for this type of events. Should be longer –not just sitting in the room, but visiting locations, talking to people.
- We should not put us vs them. We all have our tasks and interests, but we [law enforcement, NGO, media etc] are on the same side.
- We will continue working with the media and with the governments to help them improve their work with the media and NGOs.