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Program

Involuntary journeys – How to interview refugees in a digital age

Hosted by Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma
Monday, June 22 / Room F/G

According to the UN, a staggering fifty-one million people had been forced to flee their homes by the start of 2014. We are in the middle of the worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War, and it does not look likely to ease off anytime soon. The Syrian Civil War, terror attacks in Nigeria, and the fighting in Ukraine, the Central African Republic, and other countries, are continuing to swell those numbers, pushing ever more people to make life-risking journeys that take them to strange and unwelcoming places.

For people who work in the media, telling this story effectively is a major challenge. But it falls most heavily on journalists who interview refugees. They find themselves listening to stories of hardship and despair, of personal tragedy and loss. Most journalists are well-equipped to question the powerful, be they politicians or business people, but what does it take to interview vulnerable people who have been exposed to potentially traumatic experiences, whether through war, sexual violence, torture or the racism they may experience in places of refuge?

Doing justice to their accounts requires additional specialist insight as well as research and sensitivity. Traditionally, journalism training has been slow to recognize this.

How does one encourage a refugee to accurately reconstruct the story of a terrifying journey in all its terrible detail without unnecessarily compounding their distress? How does one avoid further stigmatizing groups made marginal by discrimination? And what do journalists need to know about the impact of trauma in order to ensure that their sources are giving them the most accurate accounts they can?

This session convened by the Dart Centre will draw on the experience of journalists who have covered refugee stories extensively, and it will offer practical suggestions for rethinking how to approach such interviews.

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