‘Don’t talk about peace; principles of using media as a peacebuilding tool’ – Francis Rolt (Director Radio for Peace Building)
Hate media is a reality everywhere in the world. But in fragile states, in societies and places where government is weak, corrupt or barely exists, it doesn’t take hate media to start and maintain a community conflict, a war or a genocide. Ordinary media productions will do the job, usually without even being aware of how to change it.
Most media workers who actually live and work in conflict zones – rather than those who parachute in and out – are not trained journalists or programme makers, and only a small proportion of them will be professionals in the Western sense of the word.
What that means is that media can be a large part of the conflict problem in many countries. There is a separate problem of professionals working for rolling international news channels who often fail to understand that they have a responsibility to those they report on, as well as those they report for.
Training TV, radio and newspaper journalists, programme makers, feature writers, producers and editors what the danger points are, and how to avoid them takes them a long way. What that involves is teaching them how to understand conflict, how conflict develops and changes, how dynamic it is, and how the positions and interests of different people and groups often come together to create conflict, but also how those interests can often also be used to help bring people together. Working with the media in countries in conflict means working with soap opera writers and producers and demonstrating how they can give subtle messages to their audiences; showing talk show hosts and producers that getting two opponents to fight on air is not the only way of doing a talk show, and can be counterproductive; teaching those who produce programmes or write for young people that audiences crave positive role models, and are often searching for ways of dealing with the world they find themselves in.
Promoting peace in pre-, ongoing or post conflict environments has nothing to do with talking about peace – it’s about helping ordinary people to deal better with conflict in their families, communities and countries, and it’s a very long-term process which does not begin or end with a ‘peace deal’ between parties in conflict.
For more information please contact Dr Pherali (T.Pherali@ioe.ac.uk)