April 29, 2009
NAHJ Calls for Truth and Fairness in Swine Flu Coverage
News Media Should Resist Baseless Blame of Immigrants as it Covers a Possible Pandemic
Media Contact: Iván Román, (202) 662-7178
Washington, DC – The National Association of Hispanic Journalists called on the media on Wednesday to be fair and prudent when covering the spread of swine flu in the U.S. and around the world, and resist the portrayal of Mexican immigrants as scapegoats for the possible pandemic.
The following is a statement from the NAHJ Board of Directors:
“We have come to expect immigrant bashing from the usual suspects – commentators who use purposefully inflammatory rhetoric to seek attention and to suit their agenda. And they haven’t disappointed, now using the swine flu as cause to decry immigration and immigrants. Immigrants, of course, have long been favorite and convenient scapegoats for some for everything from high taxes to infectious diseases. Facts haven’t much mattered.
But we trust that credible journalists will cover what is undeniably a big national story with more fairness and accuracy than we are hearing from these talking heads. We would ask that these stories be written as if facts did matter. Because they do.
The temptation even in more credible media, we know, will be to link Mexican immigrants with the spread of the disease to the United States. The consequence of too much of this will be even more anger – and perhaps even more violence – against a community no more responsible for the spread of this ailment than U.S. tourists returning from scenic, balmy vacations.
There are more than 4,000 flights per week from the United States to Mexico. Mexicans are not the only people on those flights. About 80 percent of visitors to Mexico in 2008 came from the United States.
The Mexican immigrant community in the United States is a part of this story. But not in such narrow fashion as we’re hearing at the moment. This community is as fearful of the swine flu’s spread as anyone else. Viruses strike regardless of where you were born. And, please remember, the fear is not just for themselves but for family members and friends still in Mexico.
The World Health Organization is raising its alert from Level 4 to Level 5, an action that will cause further temptation to overreact. If the swine flu becomes a true pandemic, we ask simply that the news industry do its job. That would be covering the story, not in the breathless fashion of the talking heads, but as a story as needful of truth, fairness, accuracy and balance as any other important story. In fact, the bigger the story, the more it needs these attributes.
With such stories as this, the news media can be part of the solution or part of the problem.”
Founded in 1984, NAHJ's mission is to increase the percentage of Latinos working in our nation's newsrooms and to improve news coverage of the Latino community. NAHJ is the nation's largest professional organization for Latino journalists with more than 2,300 members working in English and Spanish-language print, photo, broadcast and online media. NAHJ is a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. For more information, visit www.nahj.org.