Refugee Communications

Political, economic and sectarian conflicts in Central America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East have forced millions of people from their homes and into temporary camps or into the protection of foreign governments, leaving them vulnerable to threats of violence, disease and hunger. The ethical treatment of such at-risk populations by governments, non-profit organizations and other actors, such as populations of areas to which refugees have relocated and corporations, is sadly not always assured. And even the best treatment of refugees cannot replace the cultural and family bonds lost in the displacement experience.

Ethical communication practices may be one key to helping these populations withstand their current situation, as well as improving the odds of long-term recovery for refugees. The way governments and journalists frame crises, for example, may impact decision-making by populations about accepting refugees within their midst. Advances in and improved access to telecommunication and ICTs may allow displaced groups to maintain their cultural ties despite physical separation from their homeland.

In the spirit of community responsibility, charitable action and respect for human interest that exemplifies ethics in public communication, the Arthur W. Page Refugee Communication Project has formed a working group that is examining best practices in ethical communication surrounding refugees. Using a variety of research methods, including discourse analysis, in-depth interviews and focus groups, and experimentation, the members of the group have undertaken a range of projects around the world. They will then come together to present a panel on current practices in refugee communication, including suggestions for ways communications professionals, governmental officials and other actors can best use their skills to help preserve the human dignity of vulnerable populations.

Projects funded:

Noam Tirosh (Ben Gurion University, Israel)  and Amit M Schejter (Pennsylvania State University) "Media use and memory building among African refugees in Israel"

Akshaya Sreenisan and Steve Bien-Aime (Pennsylvania State University) "ICT4D Use Among Refugees in Sicily"

Daniela Dimitrova (Iowa State University) and Emel Ozdora (University of Bilkent, Turkey) "On the Border of the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Views from Two Different Cultural Perspectives"

Colleen Connolly-Ahern (Pennsylvania State University) Daniel Tamul and Nadia Carillo-Martinez (Indiana University-Purdue University) "Unaccompanied Minors on our Doorstep: Communication Origins and Solutions for the Central American Child “Refugee” Crisis"

Outcomes to date:

Preliminary findings were presented to the UNESCO Forum, “Youth and the Internet: Fighting Radicalization and Extremism,” Paris, France, June 2015.

Senior research fellow Colleen Connolly-Ahern discussed the Arthur W. Page Refugee Communication Project during a Global Bridges Panel at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication annual meeting, Portland, Oregon, August 2015.

Connolly-Ahern represented the Arthur W. Page Center at the UNESCO World Youth Forum, Paris, France, October 2015.

Results from all four projects will be presented in a refereed panel presentation, “Communicating in the Interest of Human Dignity: The Arthur W. Page Refugee Communication Project,” at the National Communication Association annual meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada, November 2015.