Higher media literacy and educational trainings among youth are needed in order youngsters to be able to identify the bad journalistic practices as well as to praise the positive examples in the new media – this was one of the conclusions from the Third Youth Forum “Stories That Connect, Examples That Direct: Good Practices in Representing Minorities Online”, that took place on 4 and 5 December 2015, in the Delegation of EU in Sofia, Bulgaria. Four panelists: Tamara Miletic, President of Mladiinfo Croatia; Marko Troshanovski, main project researcher – Mladiinfo Interntional from F.Y.R. of Macedonia; Eleni Petropoulou, journalist from Europe for Diversity, Culture and Co-existence, Greece; and Gergana Kutseva from the host organization Media Development Center-Bulgaria discussed the positive examples of new media reporting on minorities before the audience of thirty forum participants.
The main project researcher, Marko Troshanovski provided an overview of the initial data regarding the new media monitoring in Bulgaria and concluded with a semantic cloud where words like “Roma”, “gypsy” and “illegal” are clearly set to dominate the analyzed texts. The data collected in June and July 2015 encompassed 318 articles from 4 new media that were a subject of research: offnews.bg, blitz.bg, dnevnik.bg, and topnovini.bg. Though the monitoring showed that minorities are high-placed in the daily agenda of each of these media, almost a third of the cases pointed out to the presence of a generalization-of-the-minority actor, as typical for a whole minority group. Consequently, this makes a clear trending of negative journalistic practices.
Gergana Kutseva from the Media Development Center commented the initial results, expressing a great concern that both traditional and new media follow similar patters: “Even online resources do not provide alternative approaches or opinions on the minority issues. The Bulgarian new media pay almost no attention to the LBGT population or the people with disabilities, whereas the Turkish minority, when represented, is only visible in the news through their official representatives”.
The Greek journalist Eleni Petropoulou added to the discussion, saying that Greek media often have a problem to choose the right terminology when reporting on minorities and in particular, on the refugee crisis. The search for negativism present in the journalism, moreover, she described as ‘a specific kind of hedonism’ when the journalism tries to satisfy the subject.
On the other hand, Ivan Bedrov, a known Bulgarian journalist and moderator at the panel explained that new media often lack the necessary financial resources to ensure best quality of their products. Establishing minority news agencies and/or minority media, as in the case of media in Italian language in the Croatian region of Istria, explained by Tamara Miletic – were perceived by the panelists as some of the possible solutions. Still, the minorities themselves do not see those options as sustainable models and insist on increased responsibility by the media:
“The role of the non-governmental and media organizations is to organize courses for the new-coming journalists. Unfortunately, the journalism has become only business, but it is still a sensitive issue: as media you can build bridges or you can demolish them. Seeing these data about Bulgarian media, looks like they are demolishing those bridges and do not help to improve the communication between the minorities and majority, but the contrary”, explained Ognian Isaev – journalist and Roma rights activist.
On the second day of the Forum, the participants finalized the text of the Recommendations on How to Report on Minorities in the New Media. The final event is going to take place in Skopje, Macedonia, at the beginning of March where the results from the new media monitoring, a first research of this type conducted in the same time in Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria and F.Y.R. of Macedonia, will be presented and compared.