The voice of the minority is very often not presented in the media products, there is a lack of analytical approach when covering minority issues, and very often journalists use stereotypes when portraying minorities. These are only some of the conclusions from the Second Youth Forum titled “Online (Stereo)Typing: How We Portray Minorities in Everyday Life” that took place in the charming town Chania on the Greek island Crete. Speakers from Bulgaria, FYR of Macedonia, Croatia and Greece took part at the two discussions presenting and analyzing the situation with media stereotyping in these countries.
The Forum, part of the project Youth Challenging Diversity: Representation of Minorities in the New Media, supported by the Europe for Citizens Programme (Network of Towns), was opened by the Vice-Mayor For Culture of Chania municipality, Barbara Peraki, who sent a message that youngsters everywhere should be united in the diversity. George Gkekas, Brand and Business Development Specialist from Greece described how dealing with minorities is an interactive process, whereas Paraskevas Perakis, Chief Editor of the Cretean daily Xaniotika Nea depicted the process of agenda-setting, explaining how the readers look for negativism and sensationalism and news about minorities containing these elements have a much higher chance to be read and become viral.
On the other hand, the participants from Croatia, FYR of Macedonia and Bulgaria focused on the stereotyping in their countries. Ana Zuzic, a researcher from Croatia, made a point that media in Croatia are mostly market-oriented and present the dominant social attitude. Both Zuzic and Asen Velichkov, a media expert from Bulgaria, discussed that there is a lack of profound analyses on minority issues in the new media, whereas Marko Troshanovski, acting as a main project researcher and Ognen Janeski, media expert from FYR of Macedonia also debated over the lack of law regulation of the new media and its impact on the responsibilities new media have.
The topic of ‘otherisation’ and the need to educate youngsters about the different cultures and groups was widely discussed by the panelists. On the other hand, Shemsedin Iljaz, conducting the new media monitoring in FYR of Macedonia made a point that: “in order to avoid stereotyping, in everyday life we should get to know better ‘the Other’ and the new media should give enough floor to ‘the Other’ “. Gergana Kutseva, researcher from Bulgaria, claims that the ‘otherisation’ results from the feeling of insecurity, initiated by the lack of familiarity and of understanding.
“The media should stop exploiting the feelings of fear and insecurity and the deeply imprinted in the public consciousness prejudices. A few steps would help: avoiding stereotyping by inclusion of minority representatives’ voices in the stories; putting all relevant information in a general context, pointing to the source of the problems; focusing on problems similar to all national groups, not only specific to the minorities; avoiding generalization – focus on person, not on the whole group; putting focus on positive examples”, recommends Kutseva.
On the second Forum’s day, the participants started working on the recommendations on how to report on minorities that will be distributed to the new media, civil society organizations, municipalities and other stakeholders. Two workshops took place, discussing the conclusions from the two youth forums, in Croatia and Greece, respectively.
The third youth forum is going to take place in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, at the beginning of December this year. The topic will be focused on positive practices when reporting about minorities online.