Since the announcement of the state of emergency, journalists have not only been allowed access to the vicinity of the migrant camp, but even to nearby towns. The government decided that some part of the country will be media free and tries to justify that with the need of the border guards to work without being disturbed. But the question arises, whether the need of the border guards should trump the public’s right to information, and above all - the right to freedom from disinformation?
A person following various media covering the migration crisis in Poland will find themselves between two mutually contradictory accounts of events. According to the narrative of the Polish government and pro-government media, economic immigrants, mainly young men, taken care of by the Belarusian border services, are trying to cross the eastern border of Poland. According to the alternative narrative, promoted by the opposition, activists and anti-government media in Poland, refugees, mainly women and children, who are sick and starving, camp on the border. The two narratives are so different that they do not touch each other at any point, and the recipient is forced to choose one of them, because they cannot be reconciled.
Meanwhile, the truth lies where it lies - seldom on one side, and seldom right in the middle between two of them. From the observer's point of view, the greatest misinformation about the migration crisis is presenting the recipient with a choice of two mutually exclusive narratives, in order to facilitate 'dragging' the observer to one side, by overexposing some fact while ignoring others. Even if it is not a lie, it is certainly not pure information either. And information deliberately truncated from essential facts is already disinformation, extremely difficult to grasp, because technically there is nothing to question.
When following the latest reports from the Polish border, or in any case on any "hot" topic about which there is a dispute, it should be remembered that disinformation is not only the intention of the author of the narrative, but also - and perhaps most of all - the internal desire of the recipient to "buy” it without asking difficult questions or looking for the full picture.
So it is worth considering whether the medium that is my "eyes" or "ears" to the conflict has its own position on this matter? Would it inform me of the facts that are inconvenient for this position and confirm the narrative of the other side? Would it be willing to "tweak" its narrative to get me even more emotionally involved on its side?
Observing the reports on the migration crisis in Poland, it is difficult to point to one source of information that you can simply believe. We have to compose this reality ourselves from scraps of mutually contradictory reports from verified, credible sources - the media, activists, politicians.
Read more on this topic:
(Polish) "How to write and talk about refugees" - a guide for journalists and journalists prepared by Sylwia Czubkowska and Mateusz Adamczyk in response to the growing media interest in the refugee crisis on the Polish border, and thus - the growing number of journalistic reports devoted to the subject. (https://zamenhof.pl/2021/08/26/jak-pisac-i-mowic-o-uchodzcach-instytut-zamenhofa-przygotowal-poradnik-dla-mediow/)
(English) “How do fake stories about migrants spread across Europe” (https://observers.france24.com/en/20180213-fake-misinformation-migrants-europe-video)
(English) “Fear and lying in the EU. Fighting disinformation on migrants with alternative narratives ”(https://www.epc.eu/content/PDF/2020/Disinformation_on_Migration.pdf)
(Polish) Konkret24 - a website revealing disinformation, you will find there a lot of corrected disinformation about the current situation of migrants on the Polish-Belarusian border, you can also submit a topic for checking if you have doubts about the authenticity (https://konkret24.tvn24.pl)
About the author:
Katarzyna Sadło is a trainer and consultant with many years of experience in cooperation with non-governmental organizations. She has been cooperating with TechSoup Europe as a trainer in the field of counteracting disinformation. Katarzyna has served as a long-time president of the Civil Society Development Foundation and is currently a member of the board of the Henryk Wujec Civic Fund for Poland. Apart from her involvement in the activities of non-governmental organizations, she is also an active commentator of public life in the social media, the author of one of the first Polish political blogs, and a columnist of "Plus Minus". - a weekend supplement to the daily “Rzeczpospolita” national broadsheet.