Alaa Alali

Alaa Alali is a cultural mediator at the Peace Institute in Ljubljana within the project Refugee Action. He is a refugee in Slovenia, born in Damascus, Syrian Arabic Republic. He has been living in Ljubljana since 2015, and collaborated with the Asylum Center and non-governmental organisations, providing translation. Within the project Refugee Action at the Peace Institute he is contributing to empowerment of members of the refugee and migrant community in Slovenia for employment and integration in labour market, organising workshops, consultations, meetings with the employment agency etc. The conversation with Alaa Alali was conducted by Brankica Petković. She works as a researcher at the Peace Institute and also created the Fact sheet on Media and Migration in Slovenia for the New Neighbours project. Here’s a summary of the interview, held on 21 June 2019:

In the interview, Alaa Alali presents his view on the situation of media and migration in Slovenia. As he tells, he can follow Slovenian media based on his basic knowledge of Slovenian language. He notices that the media in Slovenia are reporting migration and migrants as one of the main issues on news agenda. In his opinion, not only quantity of the reporting, but also the prevailing discourse is misleading as it implies that migrants and migration are the main problem in Slovenia. He also raises concern about the organised spread of disinformation and prejudices against migrants in the right-wing media, but he sees the problem in reporting patterns of other media which do not systematically counter disinformation and propaganda by providing comprehensive approach to the topic, presenting different angles and complexity of migration and of the situation of migrants and refugees in Slovenia.

»The journalists do not make efforts to get inside the community to figure out the truth and learn about problems«.

Alaa Alali emphasizes that media should not report neither black nor white picture about migrants, since the situation is more complex. He understands that the arrival of refugees and migrants to Slovenia in the recent migration pattern is a new experience for journalists and other citizens of Slovenia. This migrant community is new for them, but journalists would not make efforts “to get inside the community to figure out the truth and learn about problems”. They look from outside, see and present only part of the picture. That is the problem of media report on migration in Slovenia and in whole Europe, he notes. According to Alaa Alali, the journalists are framing the reports on migration and migrants reflecting their ideological and historical frames. The topic is presented either through hate propaganda or by using rational approach with references to facts, numbers and laws. “But we, in our migrant community, are out of these statistics, we are going through our own ideology.”

As Alaa Alali further explains, he maintains contacts with several journalists who cover migration in Slovenia. He appreciates professional and personal efforts they are continuously making to contribute to better understanding of migration and migrants, reporting in media and publishing books about the phenomena. He particularly appreciates the work of Radio Študent to stay open to members of migrant community and has collaborated with authors of the radio broadcast for migrants. But he also sees the need for the community radio to reform its own traditional patterns of addressing the issues such as migration. “We are not only victims,” Alaa Alali remarks. It would be important to come close to the truth as much as possible, at least 90 percent, not to hide it, if you as a media want to gain trust.

»It would be good for the host society and for us to get to know each other«

He would be very glad if he got the opportunity to work in the media, says Alaa Alali. He already had the idea of establishing a migrant radio in Slovenia, but later realized that it would have very limited reach and impact. Therefore, he thinks it would be more useful if the mainstream media, such as the public service media RTV Slovenia, provide space and time for regular content of the migrant community to reach a wider audience throughout Slovenia. “It would be good for the host society and for us to get to know each other.”

On the other hand, he adds, it would be good to have a small community medium for the migrant community as well. Many people in the migrant community are interested in working in the media, but the missing part is education, emphasizes Alaa Alali. They, including himself, wouldn’t have sufficient knowledge to immediately enter that profession, despite trying hard to be informed, to collect and analyse the information available. Training courses would be helpful, but the biggest challenge would be to recruit people from the migrant community who are really capable and to ensure the sustainability of such media activities. Mostly, they can afford to work in media productions on voluntary basis only occasionally, if they have other sources of income. Moreover, learning and speaking the Slovenian language is very important, Alaa Alali concludes.

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