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(IN)FORMING CONFLICT PREVENTION, RESPONSE AND RESOLUTION:
THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN VIOLENT CONFLICT

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What role does the media play in resolving violent conflict?

The INFOCORE project provides an explanation of how media coverage of conflict comes about and how it affects the emergence, escalation or conversely, the pacification and prevention of violence. It provides journalists, NGO activists and policy-makers with evidence-based recommendations on how to improve their professional practices and policies.

Society

Results from the INFOCORE project help to better understand how different media discuss matters of peace and violence and how audiences at different levels perceive, react and engage with the disseminated evidential claims, frames and agendas for action. The specific role played by the media depends chiefly on the ways in which it transforms conflict actors’ claims, interpretations and prescriptions into contents that fit specific media. It is also based on their ability to amplify these contents and endow them with reach, visibility and consonance. INFOCORE researchers found significant variation in media roles across the six cases and suggest that they are best explained by taking into account four closely interlocking conditioning factors. First, the degree to which the media landscape is diverse and free, or conversely, controlled and instrumentalised by conflict parties. Societal attitudes to and uses of different media by audiences also have an influence. Different degrees of conflict intensity and dynamics between the conflict parties are relevant and the degree and nature of the involvement of regional and international actors. Conflict communication cannot be disconnected from the issues and political interests underlying the conflict and the actors shaping it. Conflict parties attempt to use the media to turn-up or down the temperature of media coverage and compete over key claims, frames and agendas for action. While we cannot be optimistic about short-term efforts of influencing media coverage on conflict, it appears that media assistance programmes can have a positive impact if they are carefully tailored to the conditions of each country and conflict, embedded in a broader strategy of addressing conflict courses and sustained over a longer term. The research confirmed and accentuated some worrying trends for audience trust in accurate and reliable journalist coverage of conflict. The retreat of well-resourced, professional and independent journalism, particularly at the domestic level, means a greater influence of NGOs, IOs, business and indeed conflict parties on media coverage related to conflict with some problematic effects. And while the increased role of social media might sometimes contribute to a widening of viewpoints, we found that they tend to play more of an escalatory role.

Keywords

Media, violent conflict, crisis management, INFOCORE, news coverage

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