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RAM Project (and the Exiled Journalists Network)

Ian Cook

Abstract (English)

Journalists are often the targets of repressive and violent regimes as it is they who highlight the problems within a given country. The "RAM project" aimed to provide a network for exiled journalists within the UK, provide support to its members and use their journalistic skills in an attempt to positively influence the British press’ coverage of asylum and refugee issues. In late 2005 the project helped launch the "Exiled Journalists Network" a distinct organisation covering many of the same as well as new areas.


Abstract (italiano)

I giornalisti sono spesso l'obiettivo di regimi violenti e repressivi come sono tutti coloro che sottolineano i problemi all'interno di un dato Paese. Il "Progetto RAM" mira, nel Regno Unito, a fornire un network per giornalisti esiliati, a creare un supporto valido per suoi membri e usa le loro qualifiche di giornalisti nel tentativo di influenzare positivamente la copertura della stampa britannica sulle quastioni di asilo e dei rifugiati. Nell'ultima parte del 2005 il progetto ha aiutato l'avvio di "Giornalisti esiliati Network", una distinta organizzazione che da spazio alle stesse problematiche ma comprendendo nuove aree.

1 The practice

1.1 Description of the project

Key Project Participants

38 Easton Business Centre
Felix Road
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 117 941 5889

"Exiled Journalists' Network" (EJN)
38 Easton Business Centre
Felix Road
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 117 941 5890

"EJN" provides advice support and training to exiled journalists based in Britain. The project originally started as Refugees Asylum-seekers and the Media ("RAM Project"), a child of MediaWise, a British charity which provides advice, information, research, and training on media ethics. The success and growth of the project, coupled with the belief that it should be run by exiled journalists for exiled journalists, led to the independence and formation proper of the "Exiled Journalist Network".

The aims, as stated on their website, are:

  • To advance education of the public about the needs and aspirations of exiled journalists granted refugee status and those seeking political asylum.
  • The relief of unemployment of those exiled journalists granted refugee status in the United Kingdom by the provision of vocational training, skills training, advice and support and by other means.
  • To provide a model of good practice, for overcoming difficulties between different groups and people of different backgrounds.
  • To seek fair and accurate coverage of refugee and asylum issues in the mass media.

This is realised in a numbers of ways including organising training seminars, offering advocacy support and giving advice to exiled journalists based in the UK. They also monitor the media for bias coverage of asylum seekers and refugees, produce a monthly newsletter documenting the media’s coverage of immigrant issues, as well as writing articles on issues effecting immigrants in the UK, often focussing on asylum cases.

1.2 Time, structure and steps of the project

The project was formed out of, though is now independent from, MediaWise, a British ethics based charity. It is possible to trace the formation of the project back to 1997 when MediaWise began looking for partners and funding to examine the consequences of inaccurate and sensational coverage of asylum-seekers, refugees, Roma and other 'non-settled' groups. This led to the launch, in 1999, of the "RAM Project", which aimed to promote best practice in media coverage of refugee and asylum issues. One of the activities of the "RAM project" was to identify exiled journalists living in the UK. This in turn led to the creation of, with the help of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the "Exiled Journalists' Network". Launched in October 2005 it has taken on some of the work of the "RAM Project" and is branching out into new areas not previously covered.

Below is the timeline of the "RAM Projects" activities, illuminating the process by which "EJN" was formed:

  • Refugees, Asylum-seekers and the Media Forum.
  • Discussion about media representations of refugees and asylum seekers, February 2001.
  • The challenge of reporting refugees and asylum
  • Report on RAM Regional events, compiled by ICAR, published by PressWise, May 2003.
  • Directory of Exiled Journalists.
  • Profiles of over 40 exiled journalists, to help them find work in the UK media, May 2003.
  • On the Receiving End: Exiled Journalists Speak Out.
  • Short film made by PressWise in association with Omni Productions, May 2003.
  • UK media coverage of asylum seekers and refugees.
  • Speech by RAM Project Communications Officer Forward Maisokwadzo, June 2004.
  • Reporting Asylum and Refugee Issues.
  • Guidance leaflet from MediaWise, in association with the NUJ and UNHCR, March 2004.
  • Media image, community impact.
  • ICAR report, with MediaWise input, about how the media affects people's attitudes, July 2004.
  • The RAM Report.
  • Report on the work of the "RAM Project", edited by Rich Cookson & Mike Jempson, June 2005.
  • "Exiled Journalists Network" launch.
  • Launched by the MediaWise "RAM Project" at the Burwalls conference, October 2005.
  • Exiled Journalists in Europe.
  • Report on the help and support available to journalists living in exile in Europe, October 2005..


1.3 Place and context

The Mainstream Media
The issue of asylum, refugees and immigration is an emotive subject in the UK. Whilst it is a complex issue to summarize briefly, it has been argued by some that a negative image of refugees and asylum seekers has been created and fostered by sections of the press, especially right wing tabloid publications such as The Daily Mail and The Sun.
For example in their report, Media image, community impact; Assessing the impact of media and political images of refugees and asylum seekers on community relations in London (commissioned by the Mayor of London and published in July 2004) the Information Centre About Asylum Seekers and Refugees sumerised:

  • That unbalanced and inaccurate media images are frequent and powerful, with the potential to increase community tension.
  • Some press coverage is unbalanced and lacking in accuracy in ways likely to increase tension, and in some circumstances tension does exist between members of established communities and asylum seekers and refugees, which leads to harassment.
  • Resentment displayed and language used in harassment reflect themes in press reporting and indicate a link back to media coverage but more needs to be known about how far and in what ways the reporting may trigger hostile action against asylum seekers and refugees.
  • This influence is of course not straightforward - it can be limited by the resilience and scepticism of the people and communities receiving these messages, and by their experience of diversity in daily life.
  • On the other hand the influence of the messages can be amplified by uncritical reading of newspapers, a sense of resentment and injustice rooted in deprivation, and by low appreciation of diversity.
  • However, resilience to media images does not mean that it is safe to conclude that reporting of asylum does not need to be balanced and accurate. (Full report available on-line at

"EJN"’s monitoring of the media and attempts to counter balance its output is an endeavour to improve the perception of exiles in the UK. Forward Maisokwadzo, the "EJN" Co-ordinator & "RAM Project Communications Officer", argues that “if refuges are involved in a serious crime, yes the media has a duty to report this, but they should do it in an accurate way. They have a duty to be fair when reporting crime committed by asylum seekers.”

The tramaus and trials of being a refugee or asylum seeker are well documented. Often arriving in the UK with no family or friends, attempting to establish a new life can be an extemely difficult task. Journalism often depends upon language and it can take some time for non-native to adapt to their profession in a new country.

Journalists are often the first target of oppressive regimes because simply by doing their job they undermine undemocratic systems. However, it is not just journalists who use their position in an attempt to affect political or social change who come under attack. In North Korea spelling mistakes are punished with spells in harsh correction facilites, in other countries it is dangerous to simply talk to the wrong press agencies.

Mediawise explained the situation when they first began contacting exiled journalists. “We discovered a huge reservoir of talented and normally resourceful people whose lives and careers had been completely knocked off course by tragic events. Often the circumstances of their flight or decision to seek asylum prevented them from supplying documentary evidence of their work or employment record.”

1.4 Target

The targets are:

  • Exiled journalists: they are searched for (amongst exiled people living in the UK), offered the opportunity to join the network and often helped in having their work published.
  • The British public: hoping to enlighten people’s views of immigrants in the UK through reports, articles and newsletters.
  • The mainstream media: attempting to change the current bias reporting and promote best practice by influencing journalists.

The "EJN" is a membership driven organisation; it works for the benefits of its members (exiled journalists). Any individual can join the network as an associate member (if they meet the criteria laid down by the board of trustees) though they will not be given voting rights in the decision making proccess.

1.5 Methodology

The main target, exiled journalists, were tracked down in 2003. Their details, skills and stories were published in a directory which is still regularly updated on-line ( In this way the "RAM project" helped exiled jounalists network with each other.

The "RAM project" focused on aspects of exiled journalists’ lives which they had the resources and expertise to improve. “We concentrated on confidence-building and professional issues. Those who wanted to work in the media quickly realised they would need fresh training or reskilling to cope with the very different media culture of the UK. We have sought to introduce them to the UK media, encouraged them to join the NUJ, and provided training, work placements and paid assignments.”

When attempting to improve the balance of press coverage of asylum issues different tactics were employed, dependent upon the situation and resources available. Forward explains that despite a sometimes bleak picture it is not an impossible task, “we have to use different strategies to improve journalists’ reporting of these issues. Importantly we have to engage the journalists. It is not all bad; our network was set up with the help of the NUJ and this has a membership of 40,000. In this sense we are coming from a strong starting point, with easy access to lots of people, many of whom are sympathetic towards refugees.”

Practical support is also offered to members who for various reasons could have their benefits cut by the British government as they pursue a "tough line" on asylum cases. This support can either be given by highlighting their cases or by covering the essential welfare removed by the government.

1.6 Authors, financing and networks

Networks include:
The often pro-asylum NUJ, previous contacts established through MediaWise and campaign groups/charities working with asylum seekers and refugees. Different groups working to benefit asylum seekers and refugees are in regular contact throughout the country and they support much of what they each do. For instance even on a simple level most groups link to each other on their webpage. This can make it easier to track down refugees and then begin to ask within the community if people know of any journalists.

Mediawise receives donations and grants to cover some running costs as well as selling the publications they produce on various topical issues. The initial support and funding came through Mediawise as it was their project ("RAM"). "EJN" is also supported in part by its members. The membership fees vary for asylum seeking and refugee members, supporting individuals and supporting organisations according to their ability to pay. 

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