The second edition of the Migrations and Communication meeting has brought together journalists from Africa and Europe to discuss stigmas and the new story to be built around those who choose a foreign society to settle
It is not a logan: we must give migrants the possibility of being who they are and not who it is convenient for us to be. This is the idea that guides an experience of community journalism in Lisbon (Portugal), exposed by the journalist Tai Barroso during the second edition of the Migrations and communication meeting # JournAfrique2021, organized by the Senegalese association Hahatay. They are laughter from Gandiol, in collaboration with the NGO KCD. This second edition, called ‘For the construction of a new narrative from the two shores’, has brought together communication professionals, journalists, activists, mediators and students to the north and south of the Mediterranean, in face-to-face version – from the Senegalese town of Gandiol– and online, thanks to the connection of some 150 people from various countries, throughout the two days.
It was about approaching a multifaceted issue such as communication about migration, which includes what is told, but also from what geography it is approached and with what language (how to avoid euphemisms, hoaxes and criminalization in Europe), through from what media or digital platforms, with what biases, up to the institutional silence of certain African authorities, where the incessant departure of young people is usually a taboo subject.
Before the debates, there was space to review what happened in these two years, since the first edition of this meeting, in 2019, where precisely the Planeta Futuro special of El País, A Year in Saint Louis, was launched. recalled as an example of a narrative and unpublished project, by an international medium, an attempt to bring Spanish readers around the world closer to the reality of a continent and the life of those Africans who do not migrate and struggle every day with the tools at their disposal for their survival and development for a whole year.
Selfies in the Canary Islands to calm mom
“What is behind the structural discourses?”, Should be the question of the mainstream media, according to activist Helena Maleno, who, in the first round table, explained the effect of fake news on the elusive behaviors of the population of welcome, while narrating the heartbreaking experiences of the other side, such as the separation of mothers and children, with excuses for medical tests or other bureaucratic reasons. Maleno asked, then, to avoid media complicity, while she pointed out the lack of communication media to record what happens on the borders themselves. To create new stories, regular journalists and investment are needed, something the journalist Lucía Mbomio also warned about: “there is an evident deficit of correspondents for Spanish media in Africa.”
Immigrants should not only respond to who are you ?, but also to who are you not ?, it was raised, that same table, called ‘Migration and social networks: weapon against the violation of human rights, fake news and selfies of the migrants’. In this sense, Maleno’s explanation was relevant: “The boys film themselves when they arrive in boats and upload it to Tik Tok… They bring mobile phones and the media repeat words of skepticism (‘they are not so poor if they have those telephones and come well dressed … ‘). We must bear in mind that all of us, when we use social networks, we portray ourselves happy, and not sad or badly dressed; They also post their positive images on social networks, like us, why should they make another use of them? In general, when they arrive, they call their mothers, and calm them down, they need their mothers to be calm and to know that they are still optimistic and excited (…) We have worked with families and detected the importance of mothers, both migrants like those who stay in Africa, to tell immigration from another point of view ”.
For his part, Mamadou Ba, former director of SOS Racismo Portugal, updated the problem of stigmatization and the obstacles that migrants have faced lately, when preparing their own speech, since, during the pandemic, “Many health operations became police operations.”
Those eternal newcomers
“What is needed is ethics and respect for professional deontology and human rights, by the media,” claimed the Senegalese intercultural mediator Bombo N’dir, president of the Migrations, Gender and Development Network and resident in Spain. He did so at the round table dedicated to reflecting on the stigmatization of migrants: “It is necessary to tell how are the fishing contracts that are signed with African countries and the possibilities that the industrial manufacturing of what is fished there would have to establish. in those same countries ”, exemplified N’dir, to account for what is shown or what is not shown.
Beyond the story, fair rules of the game are necessary in terms of international mobility and obtaining visas, which are issues that also influence the work of African journalists, warned Moustapha Kebe, of the Migrations and Development Network. In turn, Mehdi Alioua, Moroccan sociologist and professor of Political Science, in Rabat, continued with Kebe’s reasoning: “We have the illusion of living in our country as if we were at home, but it is not like that, since all Societies are mixed and interconnected and this is not a problem if we come to understand each other and consider the rules of reciprocity (…) On the other hand, we do not even manage to control a virus or stop the flight of foreign currency or tax evasion, but we focus, or worse, take revenge, on human beings and we are going to stop them at the border. Those 50,000 dead in the Mediterranean or the migrants locked up for months in concentration camps, for not having papers, cannot be seen in any other way than as expiatory victims of globalization ”.
Alioua, former president of the NGO Gadem that helps sub-Saharan migrants in his own country, Morocco, explained: “Migrants have become the scapegoats of globalization, since with globalization, societies have all radically changed, from north to south, and they attend an enormous amount of phenomena that affect us, that change our customs, that even change our way of eating, dressing and the way of access to resources, sometimes negatively, as well as access to labor market (…) A subprime crisis in the United States is going to influence the European economy, as well as a virus in China … we could talk hours of examples that show that societies are no longer the masters of our destiny within national borders. I believe, then, that journalists have an important duty in understanding the great challenges of global governance, beyond the national context ”.
The duty of journalism, therefore, would be to ask the right questions in the face of the impossibility of states, which turn to the easiest and most fragile of their societies.
It’s not always the money
To contribute to the debate, the contemporary culture platform Afribuku offers, in preview, and open until midnight on Sunday, February 28, the documentary Return to the roots, by director Mamo Hitz, an interesting audiovisual report that shows the experience of artists who made their way back to Senegal, because they found novelty and a source of energy and creativity that cannot be found in France, a country that is the natural destination of the inhabitants of its former colonies. Thus, the hip hop artist Mao Sidibé transmits a very clear message in the film: “It is very important to travel if you want to discover the world. Emigrating for money does not make sense ”. The designer Selly Raby Kane and Cheikh Sigil also narrate their experiences back and forth, who defines the city of Dakar as the place where everything is possible.
Listening to the migrants in the first person allows, without a doubt, to see the flaws in the discourse of the danger of the “invasion” and, on the other hand, to examine the excessive miserabilization or the use of their flagellated bodies as resources for the over-mediatization of the drama. In addition to the risk of clickbait and the accumulation of morbid images, the journalist Nicolás Castellano spoke, precisely, on the second day of the seminar, of stopping repeating cliches such as “migrants flee from hunger.” These people have different stories to tell and what they flee the most is inequality and the lack of fair rules of the game in their societies, he said. Rethinking the empathy model is, for Castellano, a mission of all the informants on the immigration issue.
Among the initiatives that were known in these two intense days of dialogue, it is worth highlighting the presentation of the New Citizenship Association for Interculturality, by a group of seasonal workers from Huelva. These workers, devastated by deplorable working conditions and by the suspicious gaze of their neighbors, are some of the groups that demand the double discourse that still germinates in aging European nations, which clearly need migrants as labor and future source of income. wellness.
The construction of new narratives is, therefore, an imperative, in which the new generations of migrants and the diaspora (Africans born already in European territory) are embarked, according to Tania Adam, of Radio Africa. This Mozambican journalist based in Barcelona recalled that she starts from a “very precarious” position but that, little by little, in Spain, she is moving from personal verification to collective understanding. Adam warned, however: “There is not a single story, nor should we look for it, because that creates tensions between us and us, and competencies to lead a story, which is intercultural, diverse and complex.”
Fortunately, this seminar is part of that collective understanding that seeks to investigate the less obvious angles of the current “slavery industry”, while promoting attentive listening to those who have something to say in the first person. “Who are we to judge the desires of others?” Would be, to paraphrase the Franco-Guinean journalist Sarah Sakho, a good question to conclude, with respect.