20 December 2021

Migrants and issues related to migration are pre-dominantly shown in a negative light by Ukrainian media, both on national and regional levels. On the eve of the International Migrant Day, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, presented the results of the first-ever comprehensive study*, analyzing the narratives and the tone of coverage related to migration, which was jointly conducted with the NGO “Institute of Mass Information”. The key finding of the monitoring revealed that criminal news and traffic accidents were the prevailing narratives mentioning migrants in Ukraine. This topic was dominant for 42 per cent of news published by the web pages of the leading national Ukrainian media and for 64 per cent of entries in the regional press.

One fifth (22%) of all reports in the national media portraited migrants, including foreign students, and even tourists, as someone who “cause inconvenience to Ukrainian citizens”. The language used in such reports highlighted the lack of ethical and journalistic standards as migrants were often referred to as “hybrid weapon”, “criminals”, “illegals” or “inadequate outsiders”.

The study also analyzed the trends in the coverage of labour migration from Ukraine, showing that media tend to focus on risks of working abroad (28% of reports in the national media and 38% — in the regional medial).

Exposing migrants’ identity or nationality, publishing photos without consent and using dehumanizing language are the common practices used by the traditional and social media in Ukraine, which feed the toxic image of migrants and foreigners in the public’s eye. As Elizabeth Warn, the Deputy Chief Mission at IOM Ukraine emphasized, it is critical for journalists to have the knowledge and skills to report on migration in an evidence- and human rights-based manner. Media reporting often provides for simple black and white accounts of the complex phenomenon of migration, subjugated to dominant discourses on who belongs and who are the ‘aliens’, the ‘outsiders’. What remains untold are the positive stories of migration.”

Building on the key findings, IOM and IMI developed a set of recommendations for the media, amplifying the need for the impartial coverage of migrants and the phenomenon of migration by using reliable sources, appropriate terminology and abstaining from objectifying migrants and using hate speech.

*The monitoring was conducted in two waves on 6-12 September and 4-10 October 2021. In total, the study analyzed 611 materials published in the national and 263 — in the regional media.