As a general principle, everyone in Cyprus, independent of national, racial, religious, social or linguistic background, has exactly the same human rights based on the international human rights treaties ratified by the Republic of Cyprus.
Recognizing this fact, the Code of Journalists’ Practice forbids “any action containing elements of prejudice based on race, colour, language, religion, political or other convictions, national or social background, property, origin, age, gender and personal status, including physical or mental illness or disability”.
Further, the Code forbids as unacceptable the mocking, pillorying and derision of individuals or groups. This particular provision covers individuals and groups or subgroups of people with different racial, national, linguistic and religious characteristics, as well as characteristics pertaining to personal status, including personal details and features.
The aforementioned properties refer to the individual’s right to be different, which must be recognized in practice and be respected by all.
Where issues of migration and asylum are presented by the Mass Media in a manner which contains prejudice regarding the aforementioned properties, the result is the creation of xenophobic feelings which goes on to exacerbate social phenomena rooted on the intolerance of diversity.
An example of the Mass Media creating prejudice is reference to national and racial origin when these characteristics do not form substantial elements of the story. This particular practice is mostly observed in stories concerning crimes or offences or for any other reason reflecting negatively on individuals or groups, where the national or racial origin or solely the fact that the perpetrator or victim is not a Cypriot is underlined in the report. Conversely, in similar cases regarding Cypriots, nationality is not considered part of the story and is almost never mentioned. This particular practice contributes to the creation of feelings of xenophobia, hostility, revulsion and intolerance against foreigners as a whole.
In the same manner, other rights of migrants are often violated, though respected for Cypriots. For instance, the violation of the presumption of innocence, the publication of photographs taken during their arrest or transfer to court, their right to privacy and non-disclosure of personal details.
Oftentimes, xenophobic statements are published and broadcasted because on several occasions they are made by well-known persons, as was repeatedly the case during live discussions or statements made on TV and radio stations; or allegations are put forward by members of the public, usually without allowing arguments to the contrary or the other perspective to be heard.
When reporting on issues pertaining to migration sympathy must be shown to people forced to risk their own lives or the lives of their children for a better life. The obligation of states to provide refugees with help and protection must also be displayed, as well as positive actions, such as the rescue of 350 Syrian refugees in September 2014.
The current circumstances of economic crisis and increased unemployment favour a breeding ground for the creation and dissemination of feelings of xenophobia, racism and hostility against migrants. This requires media professionals to be especially cautious when handling stories about migrants, more particularly about asylum seekers, refugees, human trafficking victims and other groups residing in Cyprus or elsewhere.
Journalists who respect their profession and are fully aware of their mission owe to consciously make sure that no element of prejudice against migrants interferes with their work; at the same time they should point out the positive aspects of the migrants’ presence in Cyprus.
Therefore, journalists should always bear in mind that this is not a one-dimensional topic; it is in fact complex and should not be treated simplistically in a manner that may lead to xenophobia.
Lumping foreigners together – often under the term illegal immigrants – and putting forward largely uncritical allegations is the worst possible practice.
Always take into account the element of diversity, be it cultural, racial, national, religious, social or visual in order to promote mutual understanding amongst different groups of the population.
Do not declare national or racial origin in news reports when this is not a component of information. For example, if you would not mention that the party or parties involved in a story are Cypriots, opt not to mention it where they are migrants.
Neither write nor report news about events involving migrants, refugees, asylum seekers or human trafficking victims, where such events would not be newsworthy if they involved Cypriots.
Do not overpublicize news where either the victims or the perpetrators are migrants. Treat these stories as you would if the persons involved were Cypriots.
Especially in cases of crimes or offences, do not refer to the suspect’s or suspects’ national origin, if it is not a constitutive or necessary element of the story.
Do not violate the presumption of innocence or give information concerning the private life or personal status of the persons involved or members of their family.
Reference to the origin, religion and legal status of migrants must be avoided unless it contributes to the understanding of the events. (The title “Illegal migrant steals motorcycle” places major importance to the legal status of the individual as explanation for the theft, whereas the reason for the theft might have been irrelevant to the person’s legal status).
Do not use levelling expressions and terms and avoid using belittling expressions and characterizations.
Do not refer to all foreigners as illegal immigrants or in a derogatory manner.
When referring to migrants, specify whether they are economic migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, irregular migrants, trafficking victims or individuals under the protection of the state for any reason.
The term suggested by international human rights organizations for migrants arriving or residing in a country without legal documents is “irregular migrants” or “undocumented migrants”.
Journalism ethics requires the use of a legally correct terminology as cited herein below:
Asylum seeker is a person outside his or her country of origin who has applied for protection as a refugee or for international protection of some other kind. The asylum seeker, regardless of whether he or she has entered the country without documents or in any other irregular manner, has the right to remain in the country which has a responsibility to examine the application lodged by the asylum seeker, until a final decision is made.
Refugee is a person granted refugee status based on the 1951 Geneva Convention which has been ratified by 148 countries. Based on Article 1 of the Convention, the term ‘refugee’ applies to any person who “due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. The status of refugee may be granted to persons fulfilling the aforementioned criteria.
Subsidiary Protection Beneficiary is granted to asylum seekers who do not run a risk of individual persecution in their country of origin based on the Geneva Convention, but cannot return to their country because they run a real risk of suffering serious harm – torture, the death penalty, inhumane or humiliating treatment, serious threat against their life – due to conflict or generalized violence.
A human trafficking victim is a person who is the subject of exploitation, whether it be labour, sexual or physical exploitation, such as removal of body organs, by other individuals exercising complete control over him or her.
As opposed to irregular migrants who of their own accord trust smugglers in order to reach their destination, the human trafficking victim has either not consented to being transferred to another country or, even if he or she has consented to, their consent becomes nullified due to coercion and deception imposed on them as a result of the actions of human traffickers or the abusive treatment they had been subjected to or threatened to be subjected to.
A migrant is a person who on his or her own accord makes a choice to seek work with better economic conditions in another country. As opposed to a refugee, the migrant’s life and liberty are not at risk and he or she may, if they so wish return to their own country.
An irregular migrant or “undocumented migrant” is a person who enters a country without having undergone border checks or a person who remains in a country after his or her authorized stay has expired, or someone who remains in a country after a decree of expulsion has been issued against him or her.
Never reveal the identity of asylum seekers, refugees, victims of human trafficking, even migrants who choose to speak on camera because either they or their relatives may face retaliation by the authorities of their country of origin or by non-State, even criminal organizations.
Images of asylum seekers and human trafficking victims must not be shown. If special circumstances justify the publication/broadcast of images, care must be taken not to reveal faces in a manner that renders them identifiable.
Do not use standardized archival images (i.e. women wearing a headscarf or a veil, men in praying posture) for stories about migrants. Not all migrants are Muslims or practicing Muslims, whereas the use of stereotypes may conjure up negative associations.
When handling cases of women who have fallen victims to human trafficking, do not convey the impression that these women are prostituted on their own accord and make sure you point out the fact that they are subjected to inhumane exploitation.
Never mention their national or racial origin and always protect their anonymity.
If you are hosting a TV program or a radio program, be prepared to intervene immediately and effectively in order to separate your own position and the position of the Media employing you if your guests, regardless of who they may be, make statements that contain the element of hostility or prejudice against migrants. Strongly deprecate such statements when made by public figures, individuals in positions of authority and persons who owing to their capacity exert influence on the public opinion.
Avoid sensationalism and the creation of feelings of fear, panic or concern over the consequences of migration if the allegations put forward lack a serious and well-founded documentation.
When circumstances necessitate the publication of statements of unfavourable content for migrants, make sure you present the other point of view, asking for comments by an organization promoting the rights of migrants, or ask migrants themselves to comment on the statements.
Journalists employed by online news sites must be especially cautious, as the Internet leaves more room for a racist rhetoric.
Online news sites ought to immediately remove racist comments, regardless of where they come from.
When asking for statements by foreigners, make sure they understand your questions and that you have correctly perceived their answers.
Inform foreigners of the possible consequences of their statements: when agreeing to make a statement they may not be aware of the international dynamics of the Press and therefore may not predict the consequences of their appearance in the Mass Media.