The Influence of Media on Society Rethink Media. A blog by SI UN Intern Aleksandra Aultman (Sasha)
“On Thursday, October 6th I had an opportunity to attend the United Nations High-Level Seminar, ‘The Influence of Media on Society’, #rethinkMedia. The event was led by guest speakers: Ambassador David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, Ms. Samantha Barry, Senior Director of Social News, CNN, Ms. Jenifer Fenton, Senior Press Information Officer and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ms. Kathryn Mahoney, Public Information Officer (Social Media) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Ms. Manar Marouf, Researcher at Columbia University and the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies.
The main theme of the seminar focused on the impact of media on attitudes towards refugees, migrants and other vulnerable groups. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 62% of adults access their news through social media. At the seminar, it was mentioned that media has the responsibility of perception and that its influence on society is becoming more powerful.
We live in polarizing times. Lack of information on refugees and migrants leads to misrepresentations of them. It is the responsibility of humanitarian organisations and the media to educate people and allow them to understand that refugees are the most vulnerable population. It is necessary to find ways to represent refugees in a humanized manor. As an NGO community, it is our responsibility to encourage people to learn about the reality that refugees face and practice emotional regulation towards them. It is most important to encourage civil society to be more open minded and accepting of refugees and their hardships.
The media can either misrepresent or accurately state the facts, it facilitates the curation of a supply of information that constantly reinforces our pre-existing beliefs. It is very important to be able to distinguish media news and media propaganda. Refugee propaganda is very popular today and it might affect the way society thinks of them. The speakers at the seminar stress the importance of language and how it can affect one’s perspective. For instance, the word ‘refugees’ is often associated with the word ‘undocumented’. Instead of using these words, why not find different ways of describing them and concentrate on their personalities such as, who they are, where they came from, what they went through to get here, etc. The right to seek asylum is a basic human right and no one who is in need of international protection should be prevented from doing so. The importance of democratizing the internet and providing the platform and space for refugees to tell their own stories was also discussed. This would allow them to speak to a broad audience including their own communities and share their experiences, good and bad. It would provide a more real and personal connection with the portion of society that is unfamiliar with the struggles of refugees and hopefully change people’s attitudes towards them”.