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IRIS 2012-9:1/4

Parliamentary Assembly

Media Provisions in New Texts on (Roma) Migrants and Refugees

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Tarlach McGonagle

Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted its Resolution 1889 on the portrayal of migrants and refugees during election campaigns and its Recommendation 2003 (2012) on Roma migrants in Europe on 27 and 28 June 2012 respectively. While formally distinct, the texts display some limited thematic overlap and both of them contain provisions that are relevant for the (audiovisual) media.

In its Resolution on the portrayal of migrants and refugees during election campaigns, the PACE considers that “the rise of xenophobia is challenging democratic principles and respect for human dignity” (para. 2). It acknowledges that while Council of Europe member states “already have legal remedies for countering xenophobia and racist speech”, “a real strategy is needed for combating xenophobia, especially during election campaigns” (para. 3). This statement underscores the distinctive nature of election campaigns vis-à-vis other forms or contexts of political or public discourse.

The Resolution explores the different (negative) ways in which migrants and refugees are portrayed during election campaigns by a variety of actors, including political parties and individual politicians. It seeks to explain the influence of those actors as well as the influence of particular practices that are characteristic of election campaigns, e.g. (biased) opinion polls. The PACE describes the media’s role in the electoral context as “vital”, adding that the media “bear a major responsibility in shaping the image of migrants and their descendants” (para. 8). It also notes that “Internet and the social networks play an increasingly important role in spreading xenophobic and anti-immigrant attitudes” (para. 9).

The PACE calls on (especially the parliaments of) Council of Europe member and observer states to “encourage the media to use factually correct, balanced and fair formulations by providing them with the appropriate data and statistics” (para. 11.4). It also calls on states to draw up guidelines to prevent bias in opinion polls (para. 11.5).

The Recommendation on Roma migrants in Europe is built on the recognition that the “combination of being a Roma and a migrant takes disadvantage and discrimination to an even higher level as a result of this double stigmatisation” (para. 2). The Recommendation examines the causes, manifestations and implications of this double stigmatisation and explores suitable responses to the problem. It identifies “the overall negative depiction of Roma spread by certain media and politicians” as meriting “further attention” by the Council of Europe and its member states (para. 5.1). To this end, it recommends that the Committee of Ministers instruct relevant Council of Europe bodies and committees, including the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI), to: “consider ways and means of addressing the problem of negative stereotyping and stigmatisation of Roma in the media and in political speech, with due respect for freedom of expression and freedom of the media” (para. 6.4).

“The portrayal of migrants and refugees during election campaigns”, Resolution 1889 (2012), Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 27 June 2012 EN
“Roma migrants in Europe”, Recommendation 2003 (2012), Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 28 June 2012 EN