Al Jazeera’s decision to term the people fleeing from the crisis-hit Middle East and Africa as refugees instead of migrants has sparked a new debate….reports Asian Lite News
Doha-based Al Jazeera has denied “politicising” the migrant crisis by trying to more accurately describe those risking their lives to come to Europe.
The channel announced it would begin calling those trying to flee “refugees” rather than the more ambigious term “migrants” favoured by most of the press.
In a blog, AJ English online editor Barry Malone said: “It is not hundreds of people who drown when a boat goes down in the Mediterranean, nor even hundreds of refugees. It is hundreds of migrants. It is not a person – like you, filled with thoughts and history and hopes – who is on the tracks delaying a train. It is a migrant. A nuisance.”
Salah Negm, director of news at Al Jazeera, denied they were “politicising” the debate on Newsnight on Monday, after AJ’s decision made waves, Huffington Post reported.
He said: “Migrant is a loaded word. If you think about public psyche and understanding of migrant – economic migrant, illegal migrant. While there’s an international definition of refugee.”
Describing AJ’s editorial decision-making, he said: “Shall we call them immigrants, and conceal the real problem? Or refugees to use when appropriate, and among them are migrants. That way, we can dissect the problem and actually tackle it.”
He was responding to BBC Newsnight host Evan Davis’ comments that it was political to change the term. Davis suggested both migrant and refugee were potentially loaded terms and “someone who thinks ‘migrant’ is pejorative is probably going to think ‘refugee’ is pejorative.”
AJ’s editorial decision prompted debate among journalists and workers about how to describe the people who are increasingly dominating the news bulletins and for whom there seems to be little hope of a quick political solution.
The NGO Migrants’ Rights Network hosted a blog that criticised AJ’s decision, saying: “By rejecting the term and using ‘refugee’ instead as a means of arousing the empathy and compassion we should be feeling towards these people, Al Jazeera gives credence to the illiberal voices telling us that migrants are not worthy of our compassion.”