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The media has been coined the double-edged sword. Media with its ability to disseminate messages which are marred with intolerance or disinformation that have got a way of manipulating public sentiment. It can be a venomous weapon of violence. The flip side of the coin however is equally true in that media can be a tool used in resolving conflict when the information it presents is reliable, respects human rights, and represents diverse views. It is the type of media that enables a society to formulate well-informed choices which is the precursor of democratic governance.
It is a media that reduces conflict and fosters human security. In the present day, in every part of the world, reliable, accurate and objective media whether mainstream alternative or non-conventional can both help to prevent and resolve conflict through the automatic functions of responsibly disseminating information furthering awareness and knowledge promoting participatory and governance which is transparent and addressing perceived grievances. In the same vein inadvertently or blatantly propagandistic media may in the same way fuel tensions and intensify conflicts.
To argue that media does make a difference means rejecting the view that media is no more than mirrors of something else maybe say consumer choices elite interests or reality itself. It is a common place to suggest that the media provides its audiences with a social and political world map beyond their own experience which is immedite. From this observation about contemporary complex society flow other notions of media power agenda setting media capacity to focus public attention on some events and issues and away from others.
The spiral of silence and the withering of issues and perspectives ignored by media priming which is the media’s ability to influence citizens’ criteria of political evaluation cultivation which entails the gradual adoption of beliefs about the social world that correspond to television’s selective picture of the world framing and the ideological effect (the production of meaning in the service of domination) (Hackett, Carroll 2006). This theory is a psychological theory by one philosopher Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his later followers who applied it so as to trace and explain the origins of aggression. Sigmund Freud’s psychodynamic theory is founded on the presupposition that human behaviour is propelled by thoughts and feelings that lie in our sub conscious mind. Furthermore the mind is a manipulative machine which may be directed towards certain behaviours.
This paper will also make reference to the cultivation theory which seeks to explain that over time, particular symbols, images, messages and meanings from television messages become dominant and are absorbed as the truth. Social media like television has long term effects which are small but cumulative and significant. Frequency of exposure to social media also increases the effects that it might have on the aggression on an individual and have a bearing on peace and conflict alike.
Media: refers to several mediums or channels used in an organized fashion to communicate information to groups of people as a service to the public (Howard 2002). In regard to this paper media is mainstream or independent (print, radio, television, the internet, social media) in general.
Peace Journalism: According to Lynch and McGoldrick (2005) peace journalism is the making of choices by reporters and editors about what they are going to write about and the different methods of reporting which have the effect of creating opportunities for the society at large and to value non-violent responses to conflict. Peace Journalism entails use of the insights of conflict analysis and transformation to update the concepts of balance, fairness and accuracy in reporting. It provides a new route map tracing the connections between journalists their sources the stories they cover and the consequences of their journalism. The ethics of journalistic intervention. Builds an awareness of non-violence and creativity into the practical job of everyday editing and reporting (Lynch, McGoldrick 2005).
Peace Building: The Carnegie Endowment’s Commission on the Prevention of Deadly Conflict (1997) defined peace-building as structural prevention which consists of the strategies to address the root causes of deadly conflict. Likewise, the Joint Utstein study of peace-building concludes that peace-building attempts to encourage the development of the structural conditions, attitudes, and modes of political behavior that may permit peaceful, stable and ultimately prosperous social and economic development. It states that there are four main headings related to peace-building: to provide security, to establish the socioeconomic foundations of long-term peace, to establish the political framework of long-term peace, and to generate reconciliation, a healing of the wounds of war and justice (Smith 2003).
These terms will be adopted in this study based but not limited to the above definitions.
As early as the 17th century Edmund Burke had coined the term the fourth estate to demonstrate the growing power of the media in periods when power and influence was concentrated in hands of only three classes of society (Calyle). Although it is still debatable as who was the first to use the word Burke is said to have remarked that, “·..there were estates in Parliament but in the reporters gallery yonder there sat the fourth estate more important than four than they all”. He was making reference to the traditional three estates of Parliament: The Lords spiritual, the Lords temporal and the Commons (Schultz).This evidently showed the importance of media.
In the last 50 years the media influence has grown exponentially with the advancement of technology first there was the telegraph then the radio, the newspaper, magazines, television and now the internet. Many people are today fully dependent on the information and communication to keep moving in the right direction and their daily activities like work, entertainment, healthcare, education, personal relationships, traveling are greatly controlled by what they read, hear and see. New communications technologies such as mobile/video phones and laptop computers are allowing journalists to gather and disseminate information with ease from many parts of the world. The digitization of the news industry which has led to a compression of time and space means we see news images of demonstrations, riots or coups within minutes of these occurring in the streets.
These images not only inform global audiences but may instigate further campaigns of violence at home. Commercial realities of news gathering have also affected the reporting of conflicts. The higher cost of news gathering in remote regions, coupled with the geopolitical and economic priorities of the West mean that conflicts occurring at close proximity to the metropolitan centres receive coverage at the expense of those occurring further away in less developed regions of the world. A study of conflict reporting in the world’s major news outlets in 2000 shows that the Israel Palestine conflict was by far the most covered five times greater than the next most covered conflict (Hawkins 2002) . Hawkins noted a discrepancy in the coverage of conflicts especially with regards to Africa whereupon he noted that the, the researcher who conducted the study notes that coverage of the massive war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which caused in excess of one million deaths in the year 2000, was almost insignificant.
With the international news agenda controlled by the world’s major media giants it has become crucial to develop and strengthen media at the local level to maintain diversity of opinion. As media in many developing nations such as Kenya move away from state control towards private enterprise it is essential for local media to find their own voice and professional codes. A well-developed media system with professionally trained journalists usually benefits both global and local audiences and provides a vital link to the outside world during conflict situations.
Over and above the media can incite people toward violence. An example which quickly comes to mind is that of Hitler who used the media to generate an entire worldview of hatred for Jews, homosexuals, and other minority groups. Rwanda’s radio RTLM urged listeners to pick up machetes and take to the streets to kill what they called “the cockroaches” which resulted in the killing of almost a million Rwandese. Broadcasters in the Balkans polarized local communities to the point where violence became an acceptable tool for addressing grievances.
The media’s impact on the escalation of conflict is more widely recognized than the media’s impact on peace-building. Nonetheless it is not uncommon to hear experts pronounce that the media’s impact on peace-building must be significant given its powerful impact on conflict. However, this simple relationship must not be taken for granted and should be critically examined in order to most effectively use the media for conflict prevention and peace-building. In the last six decades the influence of the media in the global arena has increasingly been recognized especially its power to either exacerbate or contain potential conflicts.
Today in every part of the world reliable, accurate and objective media, whether be it mainstream, alternative or traditional/non-conventional, can both help to prevent and resolve conflict through the automatic functions of responsibly disseminating information, furthering awareness and knowledge, promoting participatory and transparent governance, and addressing perceived grievances. In the same vein, inadvertently or overtly propagandistic media may equally fuel tensions and exacerbate conflicts, which in extreme cases like in Rwanda may directly result in genocide (Thomson, 1998).
Legatis argues that neither mere peacemaker nor simple catalyst for conflicts, the media is an indispensable political actor in peace building processes. On the discursive battlefields of already fragmented societies in conflict countries, the media and individual journalists play an important part in constructing conflict realities. They provide a daily stream of information and analysis on current events.
Through their work, media professionals not only influence the perceptions of millions of readers, viewers, listeners and internet users, but also determine to a crucial degree whether and to what extent conflict actors recognize the array of constructive options available for resolving their differences.
Any analysis of media roles in conflict resolution must address both the traditional media (newspapers, television, and radio) and the new media (Internet). Evolutions in communication technologies have created global news networks and various online social networks. (Flew 2002) Global news networks can broadcast live from almost any place in the world to any other place. Commentators and scholars invented the term, “CNN effect” to describe how dominant global television coverage has become in world affairs, especially in acute international conflicts.(Robinson 2005) The term implies that television coverage forces policy makers to take actions they otherwise would not have taken.( Robinson 2005)Thus, the media determine the national interest and usurp policy making from elected and appointed officials.
The Internet provides many non-state actors with access to people around the world and, consequently, with endless opportunities to exchange and debate events and processes both inside and outside political entities.(Larson 2004) Non state actors include non-governmental organizations, international agencies, alliances, multinational firms, terrorist organizations, criminal organizations, global news networks, and even individuals. The Internet provides people with access to news from a variety of sources, up-to-the-minute information on events and processes, and different points of view. (Semetko 2009) It also allows unprecedented interactivity, from simple talk back to blogs and placement of text, picture, and video on rapidly growing social networks such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and My Space. Moreover, cell phones allow people to send e-mails, receive information, and produce photographs and videos. The combination of advanced cell phones and social networking inspires the emergence of citizen journalists who can at any time report events from houses and streets to the entire world. (Gillmor 2006) The Internet can penetrate national boundaries of even the most closed and authoritarian societies.
Unlike the conventional media, the Internet is almost unlimited in space is a very fast mode of communication, allows sophisticated utilization of multimedia functions and interactivity, reaches large audiences around the world, is not subject to stiff regulation and control, and is relatively inexpensive to maintain. In addition, web sites and social networks have become sources of information for the traditional media as well as for global news networks. Live reporting is no longer the exclusive domain of networks such as CNN and BBC World News. At the same time, however, it is very difficult to verify the authenticity and accuracy of Internet reports including visual materials. Audiences may not know who, when, where and
under what circumstances a particular photo or video clip was taken. Without regulation, ethical standards or professional supervision any individual posting materials can fabricate events or rewrite them. This is particularly true for conflicts in which each side presents its own narrative and grievances.
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