UNESCO Assistant Director-General Frank La Rue calls for balanced and objective media coverage to address hate speech against migrants and refugees
Brussels, 26 January 2017. UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Frank La Rue, visited Brussels, Belgium to speak at the symposium #SpreadNoHate co-organized by the European Union External Action Service and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and met with senior representatives of EU institutions.
The event addressed the issue of hate speech against migrants and refugees in the media and gathered policy makers, civil society, internet intermediaries, media experts and the private sector in order to step up cooperation in addressing and preventing hate speech towards migrants and refugees in the media.
The media coverage of refugee crises and migration to Europe has in many cases exacerbated anti-refugee and anti-migrant sentiment through biased, aggressive reporting. Against this background, participants at the event discussed the important efforts needed to prevent hate speech and promote positive narratives in the media.
“The issue of understanding migration and its reality has to be approached in a holistic perspective,” stressed Mr La Rue. “It includes the role of media and the way they portray this community and its reality, as well as public opinion in the countries where they are travelling to, which are influenced by prejudices and perceptions of false threats related to the economy, jobs and security. It also needs to be approached from a political perspective, since politicians and candidates from the extreme right manipulate this issue to provoke fear in the population in order to gain support and votes.”
The EU-UNAOC symposium drew on the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September 2016, which pledged to counter hate speech and racial violence.
Mr La Rue reminded the audience of UNESCO’s commitment to change negative perceptions and attitudes towards refugees and migrants, and to foster social inclusion and integration of these groups in host communities.
“Media plays a strategic role in portraying a clear and objective reality related to migrants and refugees and in preventing prejudices and stereotypes,” said Mr La Rue. “We need to enhance the critical thining of media users of all ages and empower them with tools to resist false information and radicalization.”
In the framework of the symposium, Assistant Director-General La Rue held bilateral meetings with Ms Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, Member of the European Parliament and former Minister of Integration of Italy, and Mr Maciej Popowski, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s department for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).
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