Q&A with Experts
To untangle the complex issue of trafficking, journalists require the aid of experts who have studied the issue, worked directly with trafficking victims, and/or are survivors. Here, we pose a range of questions to subject experts for brief answers to better understand and report about the ways that trafficking occurs and how individuals and communities experience and address it. We’ve included contact information in case you’d like to reach out to these experts for your reporting and, of course, if there’s a question you’d like to see addressed here, just let us know.
Q: What is the difference between smuggling and trafficking, and why is it important to distinguish between the two in news coverage?
A: Both smuggling and trafficking are business enterprises, but the business model of each is different:
For the sake of precision in their reporting, journalists interviewing survivors or law enforcement should pay attention to the terms that the speaker uses, and to ask follow-up questions in order to clarify. This is particularly true when interviewing survivors with low English proficiency, especially those whose first language is Spanish. Often the word used in Western Spanish-speaking countries to signify human trafficking is el tráfico, rather than the internationally preferred la trata. However, Spanish speakers, including the media, typically also use tráfico in reference to the smuggling of drugs, arms and people across international borders.
Journalists should be aware that law enforcement, victim-service providers, and advocates they interview may have difficulty discerning what is actually taking place — smuggling or trafficking, or some combination of the two, especially since they are not static events. Victims/survivors are often not aware of the distinction, and if they have been moved transnationally, for example, they may believe themselves to be guilty of participating in smuggling when in reality they may be victims of trafficking. Careful interviewing and gathering of evidence is essential to determine the phenomenon at hand.
About the Expert:
Nancy Hagan, PhD, is the Senior Human Trafficking Analyst for Project NO REST at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work.
Her expertise includes coalition building and direct service with LEP Spanish-speaking individuals and community groups, in particular immigrants and farmworkers, around issues of labor and sex trafficking.
She previously worked for seventeen years at a faith-based organization in direct service and program development with rural communities in North Carolina.