Morteza and Kim, members of the Young Journalists team, seen at the premises of the Network for Children’s Rights in Athens. © UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
“I have spoken to many journalists. They may have good intentions, but I feel they are only interested in the hardships we have gone through. Eventually, what comes out is often the story of the ‘miserable refugee’. I think this is unfair. This is why I participate in the newspaper ‘Migratory Birds’. We write our own stories, we get to know the world and we give people the opportunity to get to know us better,” Morteza says.
The 20-year-old refugee is one of the longest serving members of the Young Journalists, the group of teenage and young refugees, migrants and Greeks behind the “Migratory Birds” newspaper.
Morteza arrived in Greece about three years ago with his mother and two of his siblings. Today, he studies Business Administration and Trade, while remaining one of the most active writers and photographers at the newspaper “Migratory Birds”.
The initiative to create and publish the newspaper belongs to the NGO “Network for Children’s Rights”, a partner of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, while the first issue was released in April 2017. “Migratory Birds” is a multilingual newspaper that includes articles in English, Greek, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.
“This effort gives the floor to teenagers, refugees and migrants who are trying to build a new life in Greece. Young Journalists write about the difficulties they experience, about their concerns, but also about their dreams and future plans,” says Myrto Symeonidou, a journalist herself and the coordinator of the Young Journalists group.
“We try to help them integrate, but we also send a strong and clear message against xenophobia. “Migratory Birds” is a voice that reaches out to those who have an open heart,” Myrto explains.
Myrto, as a member of the professional team that works at the Network for Children’s Rights and supports the Young Journalists, provides training to her young colleagues, while helping and guiding them as they prepare their stories. This team also organizes meetings with professional journalists who teach storytelling techniques and share their experience with the budding writers. Every fortnight, Young Journalists meet and discuss the next issue. During this editorial meeting, writers present their ideas and exchange views on the topics that have been proposed. In recent months, due to the pandemic, the meetings have been taking place mainly online.
“I like to meet people and tell their stories. While I prepare my reports I get to know Athens and discover its little secrets,” says Kim, an asylum seeker from Nigeria. “I like writing and the teamwork. We all try to find interesting stories and produce a remarkable, new issue. I feel like we have become a family. We don’t agree on everything of course, but there is love and solidarity.”
The 16-year-old girl hopes that the pandemic will soon be a bad memory. She is looking forward to meeting her friends again, to hear their news and discuss the content of the next issue. Kim wants to become a journalist, but she also dreams of a successful career in the business world. She says, “Migratory Birds” has helped her learn more about the country that hosts her and the Greek way of life.
The editorial team currently has 15 members and is always ready to welcome young, ambitious journalists. To date, more than 250 young people have taken part in the project. Many may now be living in other countries, but they continue to stay in touch with the newspaper, mainly through the website launched in April 2020. The multilingual website has gained readers around the world, including in the home countries of its refugee and migrant journalists.
“Our newspaper looks like a bridge. Young journalists try hard, move on and get to the middle of the road. Yet, the readers, the citizens must also take the step and approach us. After three years, I feel the team has achieved a lot, it has taken down prejudices and stereotypes,” Myrto says.
Just like Kim, Morteza also describes the editorial team like a big family where all members are equal and the older ones help the younger as they take their first journalistic steps.
“Of course, we are refugees, but we are also poets, cooks, photographers, journalists and so much more. Our story does not end with the difficulties we went through to get here. Now, we begin a new life. The newspaper is an open invitation to the people who want to get to know us better, to those who wish to approach us and understand our needs and our dreams,” says Morteza with a smile.
The “Migratory Birds” newspaper is released every two months for free and is distributed as a supplement to the weekly “EfSyn” (Efimerida ton Syntakton) with the support of UNHCR and co-funding by the European Union and assistance of other supporters.