Lifestyle, Ludotheque, Migrants, Multiculture

Speaking in tongues (I): Immigrant voices in the Media

Micro-media offer two forms of empowerment, first for those without a voice, including immigrants, and second for anyone who wishes to speak against the all-powerful voices of mainstream media – including immigrants._


Graham Douglas

In 2012 many training projects have lost their public funding from the European Union and elsewhere. Immigrants and other marginal groups require training in order to contribute to a society that increasingly exists through media.

The political power of social media became very prominent during the Arab Spring, and there are now hundreds of blogs in many languages dealing with local, national and international issues. But finding a place to express migrant voices in a newspaper requires media training, and even well-educated migrants can’t afford to pay for commercial courses.

Minority groups will also often not have fluency in the language of their host country.

Society exists more and more in media, in the so-called Participatory Culture, where the boundary between producers and consumers is blurring.

Powerful media groups are not disappearing, but their claim to represent ‘the public interest’ is mistrusted by people in general, not just marginal groups, as a mask for corporate interests. Education is essential for immigrants to avoid becoming passive consumers of advertising and uncritical syndicated news.

Two important issues highlighted in the Miramedia report  (see below) derive from the new media.

Firstly, NGOs can no longer rely on press releases and traditional lobbying, but need to engage fluently with Youtube, Facebook and Twitter  to communicate their message. This applies a fortiori to marginal groups.

Secondly, mainstream journalism is no longer a simple matter of gathering facts and reporting, while a small elite of columnists represent the opinions of the editor. Blogs now allow a myriad of opinions to flourish within the pages of a single paper. Minorities who fall behind in media awareness and skills will be excluded from the changes going on in today’s diverse and multi-layered mediaworld.

Here we review some projects which offer training to immigrants, including our own paper.

The Prisma

This bilingual online newspaper began publishing weekly in 2010, and has always depended on volunteers, including trainee journalists. Graduate journalists are usually supported by scholarships including the Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci and Argos programmes. So far 30 graduates have worked with this newspaper, after completing their formal university courses. In some cases they also had several years of experience working as journalists in other European clountries.

The Prisma, has consistently been able to offer valuable work experience sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the scholarship funds, and to provide trainees with the necessary documentation on completion. It is a collaboration which is only possible for us because the students can be self-supporting thanks to their scholarships.

The Prisma has also provided training to nearly 150 volunteers who responded to advertisements in London. Some of the volunteers are professionals; some are people who just feel passionate about journalism and multicultural media.

They receive training not only in journalistic techniques, and developing a writing style, but also in issues concerning independent journalism in a multicultural society.

Besides this a number of experienced or well-known journalists accept opportunity to contribute regularly in a bilingual medium.

European Initiatives

Miramedia , is a network of NGOs based in Utrecht. In their 2011 report, Media and Intercultural Dialogue, they note that international organizations, such as UNESCO, European Community (EC), EBU, and the Council of Europe human rights and media sections, have been arguing for the role of media in this process.

Citing the EC, Handbook on integration (2010), Miramedia says: “The Council of Europe has articulated a policy that sees intercultural dialogue as the means to build a ‘vibrant and open [European] society without discrimination’”.

The Council of Europe‘s White paper on intercultural dialogue of 2008 states that “the media are encouraged to develop arrangements for sharing and co-producing – at the regional, national or European level – programme material which has proven its value in mobilising public opinion against intolerance and improving community relations”. The UNESCO Cultural Diversity Convention of 2005 is an international treaty, which is legally binding on countries that have ratified it or acceded to it.

Due to the economic crisis, Miramedia have seen their staff cut from 30 in 2008 to just 5 today, while many eastern European partner NGOs have gone bankrupt. They are however still running a week-long training in Sweden for immigrant youngsters this year.


Based in Brussels, they help young people  gain experience in alternative media. They are funded by the European Union, and opportunities are open to those who are natives of EU countries or legally resident there. This year they are running a competition for young people to spend 3 European Youth Media days inside the European Parliament in Brussels, from 16th -18th October, and be trained to write up their reports in the medium of their choice. Travel and subsistence costs are refunded.

Migration is the issue at the top of their agenda, and they focus on combatting distorted and stereotypical representations of minorities. In this way they aim to encourage media makers from immigrant backgrounds to contribute to European media and to equip them with an understanding of diversity issues.

They are running a 7-day training course: World Perspectives: Minority Voices, in Strasbourg at the beginning of 2013. This is one of a series focused on cooperation with the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries working with immigrants from those countries. Issues covered will include techniques of media analysis and human rights.


This Italian NGO has developed the only thematic website in Italy devoted to media and diversity issues (in Italian and English). Besides providing information it aims to help journalists with un-biased reporting of issues concerning immigrants. They also run a small annual training course for immigrants living in Italy, which is funded by the EU. This year 42 applications were received for 10 places, and the students come from Morocco, Albania, Egypt, Turkey and Peru.

Kif Kif

The Prisma featured this small organisation recently, and they are dedicated specifically to helping immigrants from outside the EU to be trained by professional journalists and gain experience in small-scale media.

Their work is published on the Kifkif website and this ahas led to employment offers from the mainstream media. Their funding has been greatly reduced since the crisis began and they now only have 3 staff and have had to end some of their projects. With a right-wing party expected to win the next elections in October, they are expecting even more cuts.

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