Bangladesh: Humanitarian approach needed in coverage of Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh: Humanitarian approach needed in coverage of Rohingya refugees - Media

To ensure a sustainable refugee-host ecosystem in Bangladesh, media should follow a more humanitarian approach and avoid stereotyping or victim-blaming, concludes the latest report ‘Media Framing of Rohingya Refugees in Selected National and Local Newspapers in Bangladesh’ by ARTICLE 19 South Asia. 

ARTICLE 19 South Asia, with the support of the leading German media development organization DW Akademie, carried out the research under a project funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

Conducted by Professor Dr. Sumon Rahman, University of Liberal Arts of Bangladesh, the research looked into the media framing of the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh and uncovered patterns, insights, and biases, providing recommendations for journalists on how to report on these issues.

Faruq Faisel, Regional Director for ARTICLE 19 South Asia, said:

Rohingya people are the most persecuted community in the world. Bangladesh has set an example of solidarity with the Rohingya refugees, despite its limited resources. However, the perception of unconditional solidarity is gradually shifting to an anti-refugee sentiment in the host community. Positive attitude of the host community is crucial to ensure support for Rohingya refugees. Media can play strongest and most influential role in shaping people’s perception by creating positive narratives.

The report includes a number of key recommendations for media, including: 

  1. The need for proper historical understanding of the refugee crisis. Refugee crisis almost always become a long-lasting challenge for the host country and any false hope of repatriation or resettlement in the media framing can frustrate both the refugees and the host community
  2. The need for critical literacy, as an essential skill when covering refugee issues. With a large part of the population in most parts of the country having an anti-refugee stance, it’s important to not fan the flames by reporting or drafting opinion pieces that serve a narrow nationalist agenda and ignore the wider humanitarian perspective
  3. Along critical literacy, local reporters need to develop in-depth knowledge and understanding of the issues affecting refugees. They need to know how to avoid stereotyping, scapegoating, victim-blaming and other oppressive tools in writing. A fundamental change in the framework is pivotal: the Bangladesh media should be able to see beyond the nationalist and populist lens
  4. The need to focus on reporting more human-interest stories which are personalised and engaged, rather than simply statistics or news events, which can have a dehumanising impact on the way readers see refugees

Senior Programme Officer at ARTICLE 19 South Asia Rumky Farhana, who led the research, added:

Editorial policy, political leaning of media houses or even something as simple as where a journalist is based influences the way in which reporters construct narratives around refugees. This can sometimes raise questions about their role and objectivity. It is important that journalists are aware of their professional roles and responsibilities and how those need to align with national and international standards and commitments.


Read the report

Bangladesh ranked 131 out of 161 countries in the 2022 Global Expression Report – ARTICLE 19’s annual review of the state of freedom of expression and the right to information around the world.