Media perspectives on intercultural dialogue and fight against discrimination

A meeting of media experts discussing perspectives on intercultural dialogue and the fight against discrimination has revealed the extent of problems facing minorities in Spain.

The opening session of the conference in Seville on 21 April featured Spanish journalist Gloria Peter, lecturer and broadcaster Rafael Gonzalez, journalist Marian Hens and Eduardo del Campo, a poet and journalist with El Mundo

They reviewed the position of minorities in Spain, noting that some 10 per cent of the population are immigrants. Fear of Islam, fuelled by public outrage at the Madrid bombings, ranked highly in a country just 14km from Morocco. Muslims are a significant minority in Spain but educated and skilled immigrants often face difficulties in finding suitable jobs. While religious freedom is accepted, an application to build a mosque stalled in the face of fierce opposition. Many older mosques have been converted into churches.

It was also suggested that the criminal justice system may have been mobilised against sections of the Muslim community, with one view expressed that Muslims were imprisoned without justification under conditions of ‘preventative arrest.’

Spain’s Roma population and black African immigrants also face prejudice as Spanish society adjusts to population changes. Cultural differences, racism and stereotypes concerning AIDS infection strained inter-communal relations. The conference heard that some African women have been forced into prostitution after they were deemed unsuitable even for unskilled domestic work.

It was considered that the media, which could claim no more than a handful of minority representatives, did not harness its power to the cause of anti-discrimination. References to ethnic and national origin in news stories were still all too frequent.

Later, in the conference’s official session, Jorge Sampaio, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations and a former President of Portugal, underlined the focus of the conference. He said improving intercultural dialogue was ''one of the main challenges of our complex and troubled times.''

He added: ''The worsening economic situation will take a toll on the poor and vulnerable which will in turn be linked to radicalisation and violent conflict. The social pact behind every society is showing signs of erosion.

''In a world of porous borders, our societies are created with new fears and divides related to their cultural diversity. All communities need to feel they are part of a common destiny, as the world grows more interconnected the far reaching effects of distress and violence reach further.''

Mr Sampaio also highlighted the importance of the media as a 'responsible partner' in efforts to build a more cohesive society.

''The media can easily turn a conflict anywhere into a conflict everywhere,'' he said. ''In our sound bite society we need to build a media literate community. All forms of media are critical to foster this culture of peace worldwide.''

Enrique Ojeda Vila, Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs, Junta de Andalucia, said the Spanish government viewed immigrants as an ''asset'' to the country and was committed to furthering social inclusion.

Find out more


Top of page