Reporting on refugee communities: Narrative and research

2022-01-31 07:46


Reporting on refugee communities: Narrative and research-ijnet

In our ICFJ-Facebook Toolkit for Reporting on Refugee Communities, ICFJ trainers have developed resources to guide you through various aspects of the techniques, ethics and guidelines of your work. 

We provide advice for editorial decision-making, tools for conducting risk assessments and production crisis management, in addition to a resource on mental health, and a guide to an ethical code that will help you achieve professional, humanitarian journalism.

The aim is to help change the narrative around refugees as you report, investigate and represent the truthful depth of your coverage during the pandemic.  


In order to report effectively and responsibly on refugees during the pandemic, it is essential for journalists to critically analyze current narratives in both traditional and citizen media.

A report by the International Organization of Immigration titled “Fatal Journeys”, for example, stated that media coverage rarely focuses on refugees’ success stories, the importance of international financial transactions to support their relocation or the cultural richness of refugees in diaspora. Nor does reporting address their contributions to the development and demographic change of their host countries. Instead, the majority of coverage focuses on highlighting the horrors that refugees face. 


In order to develop a more enlightening narrative, you should familiarize yourself with helpful tools at your disposal and learn how to work with them for the story’s benefit. Language is the most important tool at your disposal as it’s your primary medium to connect with your audience. Stereotyping refugees, displaced peoples and immigrants has created a static, inaccurate image of those communities. 

To avoid language that may perpetuate these harmful images, and to improve the narrative around refugees during the pandemic, we recommend these helpful resources: 


The research you conduct for your reporting is critical. Without comprehensive research, your reporting may fall victim to the same stereotypes and tired, misleading narratives of the past. Effective research will inform and support the language you use, enabling your reporting to reach greater potential. There are two layers of research you must carry out:

(1) Primary, location-based research

Start by researching the location where you are interested in reporting, your potential travel to the location, current health conditions, emergency exits in case of danger, movement strategies within your location, safe locations for your team members, and assembly points from which you can take your next steps as a team.

Here are some resources to help:

(2) Secondary research

Your next step is to conduct more in-depth research. You should focus this on finding an angle, and identifying main players, third parties, witnesses and potential sources on the ground. 

Where can you search? Here is a list of organizations and their websites where you can dig for stories, especially if you’re not able to travel due to COVID-19:

You can also visit the websites of CARE InternationalOXFAMHuman Rights WatchCaritas InternationalisThe International Centre for Migration Policy DevelopmentEuroMed RightsThe International Crisis Group and the The International Catholic Migration Commission for helpful information and resources to support your reporting on refugees.

IJNet's parent organization, ICFJ, partnered with the Facebook Journalism Project on its Reporting on Refugee Communities Amidst a Pandemic program.

Main graphic created by Malak Elabbar.