Ronahi Hasan is a Kurdish journalist from Syria who is based in London. Ronahi Hasan is sharing her insights on reporting migration through her own experiences of being a refugee journalist once. The article is published by Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. To read the full article here.
Written by Ronahi Hasan
When people ask what my name is and where I’m from, the answer is complex.
My name, Ronahi, is Kurdish. But when my Dad registered my birth, the Syrian authorities twisted it to Lonai – Kurds in Syria weren’t allowed to register babies with Kurdish names.
So drawn from my work – and my experience as a refugee – here are eight things journalists should keep in mind when reporting on migration:
Understand the difference between migrants and refugees
Avoid conflating the terms “migrant” and “refugee”. A migrant is someone who moved to another country to work, study or join family members. A refugee is someone seeking asylum who has been forced to flee their country because of war, persecution and violence.
Do not frame refugees and migrants differently depending on where they are from
Sometimes the media depicts refugees from Middle Eastern and North African countries differently to refugees from other areas who might appear more culturally familiar to the West. Think deeply about this as you report, and constantly ask if the framing and lens through which you tell a story is shaped by bias.
Include the voices of migrants and refugees in your reporting
When covering migration, reflect the voices and views of refugees and migrants in your work. It’s often not enough to quote experts, officials and policy makers: you’ll produce better work if you seek to diversify your sources and include refugee experiences.
Understand the cultural context
Before you interview someone, try to understand their background as best as possible, and consider ways to approach and handle cultural issues during the interview. For example, in Syria there are two primary ethnic groups: Arabs and Kurds. Many Western journalists overlook this distinction, and therefore cultural differences between the two groups.
Find the right interpreters
If you need to use an interpreter, spend time finding the right one. Ensure, for example, that they share the same dialect, not just the same language, as your interviewee. (Kurdish has many dialects and some are very difficult to understand). Additionally, make sure that your interpreter adopts a trauma-informed approach, and discuss what that looks like before an interview.
Work to gain informed consent
When covering migration, journalists should be aware that their sources have often experienced trauma. It’s important, therefore, to gain their trust and informed consent at the start of any interview. Make sure that you clearly introduce yourself, explain who you are working for and how and when any piece might run, and outline the subjects you’d like to talk about.
Set clear boundaries
Setting boundaries is essential, not only for the integrity of the interview but the well-being of both the journalist and the interviewee. Feeling empathy and wanting to help survivors of trauma is natural and normal. And while it’s important for an interviewer to demonstrate warmth and empathy, showing too much distress can make survivors feel blame, shame or be distracted from the interview.
Don’t assume your source is safe
Don’t assume that refugees who have fled their country are now safe. Some people will have family back home, and media appearances might damage their chance of returning. Check carefully whether interviewee’s want to conceal their identity, and that they are happy with the level of detail included in the piece.