Previous Media Awards winner says good reporting needed ‘more than ever’

Calum McKay

Journalist Calum McKay, who works in news and current affairs for BBC Scotland, was one of the winners of our 2015 Refugee Media Awards, for his excellent television piece looking at people being held for long periods at Scotland’s Dungavel immigration detention centre.

Here he explains how he got into reporting on the issue, what winning the award meant to him and why fair and accurate reporting of refugee and asylum issues is so important.

 What was the genesis of your story that won the award?

I had done some work on Dungavel before. Part of the problem with the centre is not many people know it’s even there, and even journalists who have covered it forget sometimes. A group of Westminster MPs were looking at issues around detention, particularly lengthy and indefinite detention, and I learned that – generally speaking - people were spending more time in detention, not less.

I asked the Home Office for information and that’s when I discovered that some people were being held at Dungavel for more than a year.

What did it mean to you to win the award last year?

I was delighted and very humbled to win the award, particularly across both categories and against some brilliant work. It’s nice for journalists to win awards but we rely on the people who tell us their stories, sometimes at great risk. They deserve the credit, really. 

Why do you think fair and accurate reporting of refugee and asylum issues is important?

Even now as the world faces one of its greatest ever refugee crises the lack of understanding around some of the basic issues is quite apparent. Some of the misconceptions and misunderstandings – e.g. the difference between a migrant, an asylum seeker and a refugee – very much remain. That’s in part a failure of the media. Good reporting on refugee and asylum issues is now needed more than ever.

The number of asylum seekers coming to Glasgow in particular has increased. That will have an effect on the experience of those coming here and the treatment they receive. Journalists have a role in making sure that experience lives up to the principles which are meant to underpin our asylum and immigration system.

Do you think that media coverage of refugee and asylum issues are improving?

There has always been good coverage of refugee and asylum issues, though at times this has been specialist rather than mainstream. Broadly speaking, the mainstream coverage of refugees and asylum seekers has improved but it has also to a degree taken a fairly terrible situation on either side of the Mediterranean to pull these issues into focus.

I think that, as well as looking at conflict, more discussion in the media of the kinds of underlying global issues around distribution of wealth and inequality that lead people to leave their homes can only benefit the public’s understanding. 

Nominate in the 2016 Media Awards

Enter this year’s Media Awards or nominate a piece of work you’ve seen over the last year. The deadline for submissions is Friday 8 April 2016.

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