It is no secret that the media has been one of the most powerful means of communication. The interpretation that each media outlet gives to crucial issues affects the way people understand the news and help shape their opinions. The refugee crisis in Greece has been widely covered during the past months due to the magnitude of the issue. The mass population movement in the summer of 2015 onwards was the largest for Europe since the Second World War and for that fact alone it drew media attention.. Newspaper headlines and TV stations focused heavily on refugee and migrant stories portraying the tragic misfortune of these people. Nonetheless, after a long stretch of time, references to the crisis have been steadily decreasing and the media has curtailed its updates on the refugees just as article seemed to have quickly dried up.
There are a number of reasons associated with the decrease of coverage of the refugee crisis. First and foremost, people have started getting used to it and such stories don’t command people’s attention as much as in the past when the crisis was still fresh and shocking. Both the Greek and global societies are aware of the situation; refugees have been in Greece for months now and one would even say that they are no longer an emergency that needs to be covered by the media. After all the media has to follow the news. A few weeks ago the British referendum and the subsequent result for Brexit dominated headlines while this week the tragic terrorist attack in Nice and then the attempted coup in Turkey have left the world speechless. It is only logical that the media constantly shifts its focus to present the current affairs and updates on major issues.
Another element however, is that the refugees themselves do not seem to t want the media all over their lives. In February the government announced that until further notice, no permission would be given to any reporter or TV station to enter the refugee camps. While the government gave no official reason as to why the camps suddenly became a no media zone, many perceived this ban as an attempt to hide what they described as the harsh reality of the camps and the incapability of the government to change to offer better services.
However, one must look at the flip side of this. During an interview we conducted with a volunteer helping at Elliniko airport, I was intrigued by her interpretation behind the government’s decision. She told us that it is the refugees who don’t want the media in the camps. I was told that no one wanted to be filmed or recorded in such a condition. These people have been through a lot and many of them are embarrassed of their current condition in comparison to their pre-war one. “All they want is to be left alone, they don’t want to be recorded in their misery by a media station just so the station can sell one more story,” she explained. The refugees are tired and the permanence of the situation has made them less and less willing to be interviewed or filmed.
The question arising here is rather interesting. On the one hand, information on such a crucial issue shouldn’t just be cut off like that. It is a crisis that has changed and will change the Greek and European society in the years to come and it cannot be ignored. Large numbers of people coming from a different culture have been added to the European population and are part of the Europe’s future. On the other hand, the media also needs to be respectful of the dignity and rights of the refugees. They have already suffered a lot and should have a life as normal as possible and their privacy guarded. It is a humanitarian crisis after all and it needs to be dealt with both with respect and caution and certainly not with opportunism. The challenge here will be to find a balanced way for the media to continue to give updates on the crisis without putting the refugees’ dignity at risk. This wave of mass migration to Europe while having a lasting impact on the Continent and though the news cycle may change because of the most current events, this humanitarian crisis has not gone away. It is ongoing and as such it will continue to draw news coverage to which access to information remains vital.