Commentary: "Why Al Jazeera will not say Mediterranean 'migrants'"
The umbrella term migrant is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to describing the horror unfolding in the Mediterranean. It has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative...It already feels like we are putting a value on the word. Migrant deaths are not worth as much to the media as the deaths of others - which means that their lives are not. Drowning disasters drop further and further down news bulletins. We rarely talk about the dead as individuals anymore. They are numbers...
When we in the media do this...[w]e become the enablers of governments who have political reasons for not calling those drowning in the Mediterranean what the majority of them are: refugees....There are no easy answers and taking in refugees is a difficult challenge for any country but, to find solutions, an honest conversation is necessary. And much of that conversation is shaped by the media.
For reasons of accuracy, the director of news at Al Jazeera English, Salah Negm, has decided that we will no longer use the word migrant in this context. We will instead, where appropriate, say refugee. At this network, we try hard through our journalism to be the voice of those people in our world who, for whatever reason, find themselves without one. Migrant is a word that strips suffering people of voice. Substituting refugee for it is – in the smallest way – an attempt to give some back.