Racist harassment, violence, and discriminatory ethnic profiling are commonplace in Europe, which increases the importance of the role of the media in exposing discrimination based on ethnic origin.
Following the Black Lives Matter protests that spread across the continent this year, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has called on EU member states to step up their efforts.
“The press has a role to play in constantly reporting these events and it should not be afraid to call a cat a cat, but that is sometimes what happens,” said Isabelle Chopin, director of the Migration Policy Group.
The media, explained Rachel Moore, coordinator of Rainbowhouse Brussels, “need to play a role in using the terminology that is accepted by the actual group they are referring to”. For this, she added, there needs to be more awareness on how to correctly use non-discriminatory terms.
Especially when it comes to removing the negative connotation that has been attached to the actual word itself, the media are a crucial platform to correct existing perceptions, Moore said
“The Black Lives Matter protests have taken the lid off what many experts have called the ‘European silence’ on race and especially triggered debates in France and Germany about racism in continental Europe,” Lilla Farkas, member of the Migration Policy Group, and ground coordinator on racial and ethnic discrimination, European Network of Legal Experts in Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination, told a recent EURACTIV event.
“The problem is that often in public discussions, race, ethnicity, and origin, especially in francophone spheres, are often interchangeable,” she said, adding that language in itself is sometimes a barrier to use the correct terminology.
After the EU over the years put in place legislation to tackle discrimination, such as the Racial Equality Directive, the EU executive in September presented its plan to tackle ethnic discrimination across the continent, which will include new legislation, policy measures, and civil society dialogue.
One of the strains of the Commission’s document also involved proposals on how to combat stereotypes in media and creative industries.
The way in which people with a minority racial or ethnic background are portrayed in the media, and whether they are represented at all, can reinforce negative stereotypes, with their under-representation in media professions further reinforcing this trend,” the document stated.
An “independent and pluralistic media is necessary for balanced democratic debate,” it added, which is why through the new legislation, the Commission also encouraged member states to “actively address racial and ethnic stereotypes through the media, education, culture, and sport”.
Building on the seminars on Roma, the Commission will develop a series of seminars on racial and ethnic stereotypes bringing together journalists, civil society organisations, and representatives of people with a minority racial or ethnic background.
According to the Commission, together with the European Federation of Journalists, there are plans for online seminars for early 2021 “to foster awareness and promote balanced storytelling about Muslims and Islam”.
Creative industries “can be powerful vehicles for promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion”, the Commission stated, adding that it intends to mitigate racial discrimination narratives spread through disinformation is also an important part of media literacy campaigns.
At the same time, the European Digital Media Observatory, an EU project supporting fact-checkers and researchers in tackling disinformation, will focus specifically on disinformation and conspiracies targeting minority communities.
Further initiatives are to be included in the forthcoming European democracy action plan and media and audiovisual action plan.
EURACTIV has drafted a Handbook on the Racial Equality Directive in response to a lack of awareness on the topic of non-discrimination – the rights, bodies, and redress mechanisms – and an unclear understanding of what discrimination really means.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]