07 May 2019 - 12:30 - 14:00
Susan Dabbous, Tom Law, Matthias Oel, Inma Vazquez, Shada Islam

This Policy Insight debate is part of Friends of Europe’s Migration Action programme, which aims to examine the imperative of migration in the context of economic sustainability and demographics, as well as its impact on public services, communities and security. Speakers and participants at this debate will exchange perspectives on what it might take to shift the narrative on migration and integration, as well as how to cope with ‘fake news’ in an ever-more connected world.

This event is also a part of a global debate on disinformation initiated by Friends of Europe ahead of the European elections. During the coming month, disinformation and its implications for democracy are being discussed at events held in Brussels and Buenos Aires, online with our prominent community of security experts on Debating Security Plus and with the 4.5 million citizens engaging on Debating Europe.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Pexels/Terje Sollie


Migration is a global phenomenon which needs to be tackled on the international level but also by national governments, local authorities and an empowered civil society. In Europe, while the focus tends to be on migration and the political tensions it continues to provoke, governments are also responding to the longer term challenge of integrating migrants and refugees in order to build more inclusive and resilient societies. 


Welcome and registration of participants



Migration, fake news and media ethics

Fears of foreign meddling in elections to the European Parliament have put the focus more than ever before on the powerful role of the media in influencing public opinion and shaping the political choices made by voters. But citizen journalism, the 24-hour news cycle and ‘fake news’ are disrupting the traditional media landscape, causing confusion within the sector and among the public. During the so-called migration ‘crisis’, traditional and new media both failed to report on Europe’s migration phenomenon in an objective and ethical manner. Many have deliberately used sensationalist narratives and false information, thereby feeding nationalist and populist sentiments. Hopes that the United Nations Global Compact for Migration would bring some much-needed sanity into the conversation were dashed when journalists were not consulted, driving away even the most responsible reporters. Given the high stakes, demands are increasing for journalists to move away from sensationalism, distinguish between fact and fiction, and report more accurately on Europe’s migration challenges.

•    Do journalists believe they have a responsibility to craft a less hostile and more constructive and respectful narrative on migration and integration?
•    Since ‘fake news’ is here to stay, is it time to develop coping strategies for living with it? 
•    Has the media learned anything from the mistakes made while covering so-called ‘migration crises’?

Speakers include:
Susan Dabbous
, Freelance Journalist and Author of How would you like to die? Diary of a kidnapping in Syria
Tom Law, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Ethical Journalism Network
Matthias Oel, Director for Migration, Mobility and Innovation at the European Commission Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
Inma Vazquez, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Representative to the EU and NATO

Moderated by:
Shada Islam
, Director of Europe & Geopolitics at Friends of Europe


End of debate

Susan Dabbous
Freelance Journalist and Author of 'How would you like to die? Diary of a kidnapping in Syria'
Susan Dabbous is an Italian-Syrian journalist covering events in the Middle East – particularly in Syria – for various Italian media outlets. In 2013, she was abducted during a trip to Syria by an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group and held hostage for 11 days. After her release, she chronicled her abduction in the book 'How would you like to die? Diary of a kidnapping in Syria'. Dabbous was also awarded the International Prize for Press Freedom by the Information Safety and Freedom Association. Before focusing on the Middle East, she wrote numerous reportages on the topics of migration, racism and integration.
Tom Law
Director of Campaigns and Communications at Ethical Journalism Network
Tom Law leads the Ethical Journalism Network’s international media ethics campaigns on hate speech, migration reporting, media literacy, good governance and self-regulation. Prior to this, he worked as the Associate Editor of the Sudan Tribune, a leading regional news website, and in 2005 co-founded the independent newspaper The Juba Post in South Sudan. Law has also worked for UNICEF, women’s right groups and civil society organisations in Sudan, and for two years led the Taught Not Trafficked campaign with SOLD, an award-winning feature film about child trafficking from Nepal to India.
Matthias Oel
Director for Migration, Mobility and Innovation at the European Commission Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
Matthias Oel is responsible for migration, mobility and innovation at the European Commission. Before assuming his current position, he held a number of senior posts in the EU institutions, including in the same Directorate-General as Director for Migration and Security Funds and as Special Advisor in the Cabinet of former European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. With a background in economics and industry policy, Oel has occupied several positions within the German Federal Ministries, including as head of the task force for Germany’s 2007 EU Presidency and subsequently as Director for European Union Affairs in the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
Inma Vazquez
Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Representative to the EU and NATO
Inma Vazquez’s extensive experience in the field of humanitarian aid includes 15 years of field work occupying management positions in humanitarian organisations like Médecins sans Frontières, Action contre la Faim and the European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. She has been in charge of large field operations and worked in a variety of contexts ranging from complex emergencies to natural disasters and transition situations. Between 2004 and 2007 Vazquez was MSF’s liaison for the Global Fund to fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Shada Islam
Director for Europe & Geopolitics
Shada Islam is responsible for policy oversight of Friends of Europe’s initiatives, activities and publications. She has special responsibility for issues related to the Future of Europe, Migration, the Asia Programme and the Development Policy Forum. Shada is Visiting Professor at the College of Europe (Natolin) where she teaches Asia-Europe relations and has been selected as a fellow by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She has been named as one of twenty most influential women in Brussels by Politico. Shada is the former Europe correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and has previously worked on Asian and Migration issues at the European Policy Centre. She is one of the authors of Friends of Europe’s much-read “Frankly Speaking” commentary and is sought after as a speaker, commentator, columnist and moderator at high-level European and global events. Shada also continues to write on EU foreign and security policy, EU-Asia relations and trade and development issues for leading Asian, European and international publications and academic journals.
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Amanda Rohde, Programme Manager
Tel.: +32 2 893 98 11
Email: amanda.rohde@friendsofeurope.org 

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