AIBD-IOM Discusses the Fair Presentation of Migrant Women in Media

As words are mightier than swords, there are few points for journalists to adopt in order to protect the most vulnerable in the migrant community

AIBD/Safe & Fair Regional Media Dialogue on “Sensitising Media on Women’s Labour Migration”

Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) Malaysia draws attention to the need to properly report on one of the most vulnerable demography of the migrant community, the women, in a webinar among journalists by highlighting the migrant women’s contribution to the economy and the challenges they are facing which are often overlooked then perpetuated by the stigma built around them from a news report.

The webinar was hosted in line with 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and AIBD is collaborating with the Safe & Fair Programme on Sensitising Media on Women’s Labour Migration and how media can avoid the common stereotypes associated with Migrants. Opening remarks were made by AIBD Chairman, Philomena Gnanapragasam and moderated by Aslam Abd Jalil.

Panudda Boonpala, Director ILO Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India, H.E. Michalis Rokas is the Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation to Malaysia and Deputy Secretary-General for Multilateral Affairs, Dato’ Cheong Loon Lai were also present to give their keynote speeches.

The three hours webinar encompassed the contribution of women migrant workers in the economy of different countries and how they are at the disadvantage of not being recognised as a worker. Presentations of case studies from around the world include Ratna Mathai-Luke of Technical Officer, Safe and Fair Programme, Naomi Goldsmith of UK Migration Specialist Media Trainer from the United Kingdom, Cécile Debarge, Independent Journalist from France, Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Executive Director, Centre for Investigative Reporting from Sri Lanka and Shafiq Ahmad, Editor/Journalist In-charge of Asia-Pacific Desk, Anadolu Agency from Turkey. The panel has also explored suggestions for journalists to expand their horizons on how to report news on migrant women.

Dilrukshi Handunnetti shared one of many anecdotes from Sri Lanka, which is one of the nations with significant exports of women’s labour that has outnumbered males, or what is known as ‘feminisation of labour migration.’ Violence against domestic workers, employer cruelty, failure of authorised state agencies, lack of compensations, and other situations that she terms “vulnerability packaging” to further highlight their struggles to the public are among the stories that are commonly mentioned.

Cecile Debarg expanded on Dilrukshi’s point by highlighting the vulnerability of women migrant workers in Europe, which includes a lack of transparency about their work contracts and the confiscation of their visas and identification by employers, making them vulnerable to becoming red-light district workers and illegal businesses.

Under the suggestions for journalists and media agencies alike, the key is to be more empathetic to the situation that the migrants were in.

Naomi Goldsmith has asked guests a few questions to get a sense of what it’s like to be a migrant worker. She then goes on to say that the jobs that locals take for granted are being done by migrants, who have helped keep the country operating smoothly.

With that in mind, she touched on another idea, namely, interviewing female migrant workers in person to gain their perspective for a more balanced perspective in the news. Naomi recommended contacting someone who has their own free choice and is not constrained by an employment contract that might put them in risk.

Provide clarity in order to earn her trust by being open about how the narrative she’s sharing will be used.

Naomi also gives journalists tips on how to protect themselves while they deal with difficult, human matters, reminding them not to provide advice and to remember that they are primarily there to help relay the migrants’ narratives.

Some stories can be very distressing, and the panellists agreed that journalists should remember to communicate to someone how they are feeling in order to minimise workplace depression.

The panellists have also shared handbooks and reports on women migration and they can be downloaded here.

Meanwhile, the 3 hours webinar can be viewed here.