“The long-standing problem of negative media reporting on minorities has vehemently re-emerged with the cases of the children found in Roma families in Greece and Ireland,” Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, today told reporters.
He said: “Most news reports, not only in Europe but all over the world, have insisted on the ethnicity of the families from which the children have been taken, thus propagating age-old myths portraying Roma as child-abductors.
“Such irresponsible reporting can have tremendous effects on the lives of millions of Roma and fuel already widespread violent anti-Roma movements. Although the Roma are no more inclined to criminal behaviour than anybody else, media insistence on mentioning ethnicity in news reports gives credence to the myth that Roma are by nature criminals. This is not only false, but also dangerous as it risks heightening the already tense relations between the Roma and the majority population all over Europe.
“The propagation of such a negative image also harms integration efforts: How can we expect the Roma to integrate in our societies if the media do not miss an opportunity to remind them that they are unwanted?
“I call on all journalists involved in the coverage of these cases to step back and examine whether mentioning ethnicity was really necessary, whether the best interests of the child, including the right to privacy, have been respected and whether the presumption of innocence has been upheld.
“Past examples teach us that demonising a group of people through the media can lead to nefarious political and societal consequences. It is necessary that the media use their power of forging public opinion more responsibly when it comes to portraying minorities in general, and the Roma in particular.”