Media plays key role in destigmatising migrants, refugees, say UN reps
March 9, 2021
PETALING JAYA: Two United Nations (UN) representatives say media professionals play a crucial role in the destigmatisation of migrants and refugees, particularly in the fight against Covid-19.
Malarvili Meganathan from UN’s International Organization of Migration (IOM) said the anxiety and fear generated by the pandemic had exacerbated xenophobic attitudes and stigmatisation of migrants.
Malarvili said disinformation and discrimination towards any group would pose a risk to all people.
“These stigmas can stop migrants from coming forward for testing, treatment or vaccination for Covid-19,” Malarvili said in a webinar entitled “Media Matters: Dispelling Disinformation About Migrants and Refugees”.
She added the media should promote ethical journalism, saying they should tell their stories by presenting accurate information without sensationalising and dehumanising the issues.
“The term ‘irregular’ migrant is preferable to ‘illegal’ migrant because the latter carries a criminal connotation,” Malarvili said.
Speaking at the same webinar, World Health Organization (WHO) representative Faizza Tanggol said the role of media in community engagement is essential to public health for all, including migrants and refugees.
She said journalists are needed to engage with the migrant community to understand their issues as it can help shift norms and inspire behavioural and societal change.
“By sharing the stories of migrants and refugees, it supports destigmatisation by humanising and normalising the issues they face,” Faizza said.
She added that this builds trust between community leaders and key vulnerable populations and would also ensure effective two-way communication to address concerns, perceptions and misinformation about vaccines.