Florence Workshop

florenceworkshop  

Media for Diversity and Migrant Integration

Assessing the Role of the Italian Media in Reflecting Diversity and Promoting Migrant Integration

 

Workshop Co-Organised by

the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Florence

Municipality of Florence, and

Regione Toscana, Assessorato alla Cultura, Turismo e Commercio

Florence, 28 May 2012

Sala Poccetti, via San Gallo,25, Firenze

Programme [EN] - Programme [IT]

 

The MEDIVA Project has organised a workshop in Florence on 28 May 2012 to present the results of the application of the MEDIVA Indicators on selected Italian media (four newspapers and one Television channel). The MEDIVA indicators measure the capacity of the media to reflect diversity and promote migrant integration. The workshop was organised in cooperation with the Tuscany Region, Office for Culture, Trade and Tourism.

The workshop started with a brief introduction of the MEDIVA Project’s aims, work and output by the scientific coordinator of the project, Prof. Anna Triandafyllidou. She emphasised the holistic coverage that MEDIVA offers. The project addresses four dimensions that affect the capacity of a given media outlet to promote migrant integration: notably the representation of migrants and migration related issues in the content of news reporting, the newsmaking practices of the media, the recruitment and employment policies and practices of media outlets and last but not least issues of training for diversity.

Iryna Ulasiuk, main researcher in the EUI team presented the results of the pilot study of selected media outlets in Italy. The Italian pilot study evaluated four newspapers (Il Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, Il Sole 24 Ore, La Nazione) and one TV station (Rai Tre regione Toscana).

The results showed an overall rather bleak picture about the Italian media. Migration related news are a tiny fraction of overall news (between 0.5 and 1.5 per cent). Migrant voices are generally not heard in news coverage even in issues that directly concern them. Awareness of the need to recruit and employ migrant journalists and to reflect the diversity of the population in the diversity of the media work force is very low. Training schemes are practically non existent.

Anna Triandafyllidou invited then Anna Meli, a media expert, and Marco Bazzichi, a journalist, to comment the findings of the MEDIVA pilot study on the selected media outlets. Anna Meli pointed out that numbers are important as they sometimes can convey a result more efficiently than detailed qualitative accounts but warned about the need to contextualise results and take into account the characteristics of the Italian context.

Workshop in Florence

 

She signalled also that one of the most important initiatives of voluntary adherence to principles of ethical journalism and fair reporting on migrants and asylum seekers, the Chart of Rome has indeed been created in Italy, after an initiative of the UNHCR which was taken up by the Italian Press Federation and led to the creation of the Association for the Chart of Rome. Indeed she felt that important steps are taken in the right direction in the Italian media scene even if these are not yet fully reflected in the reality of the mainstream media.

Anna Meli also noted that the MEDIVA indicators can be used not only for assessment by researchers and policy makers but also for self-assessment and self-monitoring of the media.

Marco Bazzichi, an experienced journalist based in Florence, noted that while scores can be reductionist they also give a sense of ‘scale’ – they give a concrete element on which to judge reality. And as such they are welcome because they can expose important weaknesses (or strengths) in the capacity of the media to reflect diversity and promote integration.

He noted that the results of the pilot study conducted by the MEDIVA project are in line with his own observations: in Tuscany there are a couple of foreign journalists (not of typical economic migrant background though) in the entire landscape of newspapers and TV stations including regional and local media.

He welcome the emphasis that the MEDIVA indicators put on the passive vs. active role of migrants in the news and noted that while there can be no ‘objective’ information, we should be aware that any kind of news includes a specific perspective from which to look at things. So although an objective perspective, quality journalism investigates on matters and seeks to inform the citizens and explain social phenomena rather than promoting ready made stereotypes.

 

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The morning session of the workshop continued after these short commentaries with a small question and answer session: Anna Meli asked specific questions to three journalists that are active in the field of migration.

She first addressed Francesca Padula, journalist in Il Sole 24 Ore, as this newspaper received rather positive scores in the MEDIVA pilot study especially as regards the representation of migrants in the news. Francesca Padula noted that this positive scoring had to do with the informative mission of the newspaper and with a growing awareness that migrants in Italy today are not only manual workers but may also be employers themselves or business persons.

Anna Meli then introduced Sandra Federici and asked her to present the Guide on how to communicate on migration (come comunicare la migrazione) that she has prepared in cooperation with Franco Pittau from Caritas Migrantes in Rome. Sandra Federici, a journalist herself, noted that this Guide aims to complement the Chart of Rome and to provide necessary information and guidance to journalists who report on migration related issues.

The floor was then given to Danilo de Biasio from Radio Popolare, a radio station that has a national coverage and adopts a critical view point in general and on migration issues in particular. Anna Meli asked Danilo de Biasio to comment on the radio stations’ role in promoting migrant integration. He noted that radio has actually been shown to be a more polyphonic medium than TV or newspapers and that often the entertainment character of the radio, music for instance, acts as a very efficient cultural bridge that brings people together.

Danilo de Biasio also noted the need to normalise migration in the news reporting: to speak less about exceptions and dramas and more about everyday concerns and normal life problems.

Anna Meli invited all three participants in this small Q & A session to reflect on the need for affirmative action measures in the field of journalism: should ethnic quotas be introduced in public broadcasting in television for instance?
Sandra Federici who is also the editor of a specialised magazine called “Africa e il Mediterraneo” noted that her magazine is a ‘niche’ media outlet while most people get their information from main TV stations. So while a normalisation of migration is important, affirmative action might also be necessary, especially at these times of economic crisis that we are living.

Danilo de Biasio noted also the importance for journalists to diversify their sources and to investigate in depth about events so as to properly contextualise and explain them. All three journalists concluded that the media landscape and the journalistic profession are facing important difficulties because of the general economic crisis that Italy and also other European countries are facing. However this makes their role all the more important as immigrants can become easy scapegoats and anti-immigrant voices can easily be manipulated for electoral purposes as the spectacular rise of a neo-Nazi party in Greece has shown.

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After a short lunch break, the workshop reconvened in the afternoon with a Roundtable, moderated by Anna Triandafyllidou with the participation of three journalists of migrant origin and one Italian journalist and co-founder of the group “Journalists against Racism”.

The Italian journalist, Lorenzo Guadagnucci, presented the work of ‘Journalists against Racism’ a group of journalists formed spontaneously some 5 years ago and noted that there are several initiatives of this type in Italy. They are signs of a growing awareness that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way migration is presented in the Italian media and with the absence of migrant journalists from the media work force. He however noted that laudable and pioneering initiatives like the Chart of Rome have not given so far the fruits that they were expected to bear because they are purely voluntary. He argued in favour of sanctions to be introduced for journalists that violate the principles enshrined in the Chart of Rome.

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Aleksandra Caci, a Tuscan journalist from Pontedera and originally from Albania, has presented a local project implemented at the regional newspaper ‘Il Tirreno’. The project has had as its main aim to present interesting and positive news on migrants and their lives in one of the internal pages of the newspaper. The project lasted for 3 years (2008-2011), has brought important results in that it showed a different reality of migration than that of the so called ‘cronaca nera’ (the criminality bulleting from the police). She noted also that the project has offered training to the migrants who were involved on a voluntary basis in the gathering, preparation and editing of the news. She actually noted how even a small regional newspaper can make a big difference even with very limited financial means.

The floor was then given to Karim Metlef, a journalist and educator of Algerian origin, who commented on the vulnerability and short life of several laudable media projects that have aimed during the last decade to involve migrant journalists and present a different ‘face’ of migration in Italy. Karim Metlef noted that the situation has not quite improved during the last 20 years as regards the negative and demeaning representation of migrants in the Italian media. Actually this is quite striking he noted given how much the migrant population has evolved in size, composition, and socio-economic features.

Karim Metlef also noted how migrants ‘disappear’ when normal news are reported (e.g. a problem with the canteen of a school – the Moroccan or Romanian parents disappear) while they ‘re-appear’ and become ‘visible’ in the ‘cronaca nera’ (when somebody is reported to have committed a crime). Thus he also called for the need to ‘normalise’ the news on migration.

The last speaker of the roundtable was Viorica Nechifor, journalist and president of the ANSI (National Association of the Italian Press). Viorica Nechifor, who is of Romanian origin, noted the institutional obstacles that migrant journalists and migrants students in schools of journalism face when they try to register with relevant professional associations (the regional associations of journalists, as required by law) for the mere fact that they are foreigners.  

 

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She also noted that racist and xenophobic languages in the Italian media passes sometimes unnoticed and most importantly is not sanctioned. Even when a written complaint is made and a racist heading or comment is under scrutiny, there is a tendency to ‘excuse’ the authors of racist statements and not to sanction them. Interestingly she noted that the obstacles faced at the institutional level are the same for EU citizens and non EU citizens alike.

After these short commentaries by the Roundtable participants, the discussion was opened to the public. Several participants made interesting comments. A gentleman from Eritrea who has been living in Italy for 40 years noted the need for Italy to recognise its colonial past and acknowledge its historical role in selected African countries. A young student from the University of Florence, of African origin, noted that new technologies and new media are important outlets of communication that young people use to pass their messages and make their voices heard. Another young student from the University of Florence noted that there is in-built prejudice in the media and that young stagiaires like himself can be sanctioned if they put forward the ‘wrong’ perspective on a migration related issue. Last but not least a middle aged man from Nigeria who has lived in Florence for 20 years noted that it is important to look into the future and take the necessary steps to change this situation so that migrants of second generation do not suffer from the same discrimination that first generation ones have suffered.