(IN)FORMING CONFLICT PREVENTION, RESPONSE AND RESOLUTION:
THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN VIOLENT CONFLICT
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Romy Fröhlich (Prof.)
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Grant agreement ID: 613308
1 January 2014
31 December 2016
€ 3 222 926,53
€ 2 499 491
What role does the media play in resolving violent conflict?
Grant agreement ID: 613308
1 January 2014
31 December 2016
€ 3 222 926,53
€ 2 499 491
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Final Report Summary - INFOCORE ((IN)FORMING CONFLICT PREVENTION, RESPONSE AND RESOLUTION:THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN VIOLENT CONFLICT)
INFOCORE (http://www.infocore.eu/results/definitions/) is a three-years research project (Jan. 2014 – Dec. 2016) funded by the 7th European Framework Program of the European Commission (Theme SSH.2013.4.2-1). The main objective of the project was to investigate the role(s) that media (conventional and social media) play in the emergence or prevention, the escalation or de-escalation, the management, resolution, and reconciliation of violent conflict. INFOCORE follows a comprehensive research strategy and compares the workings of conflict news coverage and production across different cases and contexts, and identifies patterns that cut across cultural, national, and other influences and characteristics. It focuses on the conditions that bring about different media and actors roles in the cycle of conflict and peace-building. Its approach addresses both the socially interactive production process behind the creation of conflict coverage, and the inherent dynamics of information and meaning disseminated via the media. INFOCORE pursues three interrelated scientific objectives: (1) to produce knowledge that is not limited to case-specific circumstances (analysis of six different conflicts in the Middle East, Western Balkans and the Great Lakes region in Africa); (2) to provide knowledge on the process of conflict news production and identify the key inter-actions between media, sources, and audiences; (3) to analyse the dynamics of conflict news content over time, and identify recurrent patterns of information diffusion and the polariza-tion/consolidation of specific frames. Building upon this knowledge, INFOCORE pursues the following application-oriented objectives that directly support the formulation and implementation of (communication) policies by the EU and its international partners: (1) to identify key access points for media assistance programs, (2) to provide knowledge of how media and policy actors can cooperate to build policy capabilities for understanding ongoing conflict and formulating/implementing suitable policies, (3) to create insights about the potential for using media to improve the accuracy, timeliness, and relevance of open source intelligence for the purposes of early warning and informing policy and (4) to develop evidence-based strategies for communicating toward/via media in a manner suitable for assisting mediation and dialogue, and combating escalatory content.
Initial result can be summarised as follows: The common assumption that political source frames are introduced directly into the news has been put into question by our results. Concerning the usage of and references to sources, foreign coverage seems to be more balanced than domestic ones. While domestic coverage during all stages of the conflict(s) is much steadier, foreign media delay its attention on the escalation and move on to something else quickly. NGOs appear as highly influential actors on the journalistic production process in contexts with elevated intensity of violence. Social media doesn’t play the expected peace, promotion and reconciliation role. Political actors who were directly involved on the ground had higher impacts on news coverage. Furthermore, the primary predictor of political actors’ and NGOs media resonance is the share of texts that contained evidence. Women’s voices are clearly underrepresented in conflict coverage, and gender stereotyping is still an issue. Initial Recommendations: (Political) Actors active in the field of conflict prevention, management and resolution should (1) build communicative networks with relevant NGOs, (2) invest in stable relationships with local/domestic media on the ground, (3) improve the factual character (evidence) of their media-related conflict communication, (4) consider the proactive provision of female voices and women’s perspectives in their communication material to be a contribution to fair and balanced content production –– a key prerequisite for de-escalative effects of communication. Concerning the latter, EU politicians and NGOs have a special responsibility in this regard.
Project Context and Objectives:
Through its treaties and strategic documents, the European Union places a strong emphasis on preventing violent conflict and promoting peace within, as well beyond, Europe’s borders (Gothenburg Program 2001; Treaty of Lisbon 2009, Art10a). Since the Treaty of Nice, the EU has been engaged in crisis management operations in Africa and the Balkans; however, its greatest strengths lie in its preventive approach and its reliance on non-military instruments. The media are particularly relevant for the EU for at least three reasons: Firstly, the media, international and local alike, can play key roles in shaping dynamics on the ground and can thus be crucial to the failure or success of long-term peace-building, as well as through short-term instruments such as mediation. Cooperating with media is a key component of successful conflict prevention, resolution, and peace-building policy initiatives. Secondly, the EU, in particular its External Action Service (EEAS), is very limited in its gathering of certain types of intelligence and has to rely on openly available sources through systems such as “Tarîqa” (https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/software/tariqa/description) for risk assessment, early warning, and current intelligence purposes (Montanaro et al., 2011; Brante, de Franco, Meyer, et al., 2011). Thirdly, when and where the EU acts depends largely on where member states decide to focus their attention and resources; this is a factor that is influenced by mediated public debates. Against this backdrop, INFOCORE’s main aim is to investigate the role(s) that media play in the emergence or prevention, the escalation or de-escalation, the management, resolution, and reconciliation of violent conflict.
Furthermore, the global media landscape is being transformed through the interplay of a range of factors: the rise of social media and new communication technology, new non-Western transnational broadcasting, cutbacks to foreign correspondents and outsourcing production due to dwindling advertising revenue, NGOs and not-for-profit media trying to fill the gap, etc. (Otto & Meyer, 2012). Contemporaneously, the nature of violent conflict itself is changing as new issues are being contested by new actors with new tactics. The presence of digital media has thoroughly altered the practice of conflict news production. Important new opportunities (for example, mobilization for democratic change, instant eyewitness news, identifying where help is needed) are accompanied by new threats (for example, quickly spreading hate speech and rumors, propaganda, coverage based on unverifiable posts and tweets) that can directly impact the dynamics of conflict and resolution (Kamilindi, 2007; Paterson et al., 2012). To understand fully the new dangers and to make full use of these new opportunities, INFOCORE follows a comprehensive research strategy. And finally: Because of the speed and interactivity that in particular characterize 21st-century news, the media’s role in conflicts cannot be understood adequately from a nationally oriented look at single practitioners, products, or cases alone. Therefore, this project compares the workings of conflict news coverage and production across different cases and contexts, and identifies patterns that cut across cultural, national, and other influences and characteristics.
INFOCORE focuses on the conditions that bring about different media and actors roles (see figure 1 in appendix) in the cycle of conflict and peace-building. In doing so, its approach addresses both the socially interactive production process behind the creation of conflict coverage, and the inherent dynamics of information and meaning disseminated via the media. It analyses the process of conflict news production and dissemination by conventional as well as social media. The project applies a systematically comparative approach (see also figure 2 in appendix):
- across different media formats (print, audiovisual, online)
- local, national, and transnational media
- applying different journalistic styles (e.g. investigative journalism, peace journalism, local styles)
- in different kinds of conflicts (across conflicts)
- inside and outside conflict areas
- operating within different national/cultural contexts, political and media systems
- across different kinds of media audiences (e.g. general public, specific political elites/decision makers)
- across eight different languages (Albanian, Arabic, English, French, German, Hebrew, Macedonian, Serbian/Croatian)
The comparative approach of INFOCORE aims to provide a thorough understanding of the processes and dynamics underlying conflict news production and dissemination, as summarized by the following knowledge (OBJECTIVES A):
Objective A.1 –– to produce knowledge that is not limited to case-specific circumstances, but represents general patterns and mechanics in the role of media in conflict. This includes a nuanced approach that identifies the specific conditions that bring out one role of the media or another in a specific situation. For this purpose, the project identifies the main contextual factors that influence the roles media play in conflict and peace-building. Specifically, we assess the roles of individual agendas and resources, profession-al norms and cultures, media organizations and systems, political systems, and characteristics of the conflict situation.
Objective A.2 –– to provide knowledge on the process of conflict news production and identify the key inter-actions between media, sources, and audiences that shape the roles of media in conflict. Specifically, we focus on interactions between four key kinds of actors that play an active role in shaping media coverage:
- Professional journalists (in various kinds of media)
- Political actors (including public authorities, military)
- Experts/NGOs (in intelligence, peacekeeping, conflict prevention/resolution, and media assistance)
- Lay publics (individuals and groups, including economic actors)
We analyse these four actors’ different roles (as sources/advocates, mediators, and users/audiences) in the production of professional news media, social media, and semi-public intelligence/expert analysis.
- Which agendas and demands do the different actors pursue with their participation in news production?
- Which strategies have the different stakeholders developed for participating in news production?
- Which strategies have journalists developed for dealing with the respective constraints and pressures?
- How do the interactions with sources, audiences, and other stakeholders shape the news production process?
Objective A.3 –– to analyse the dynamics of conflict news content over time, and identify recurrent pat-terns of information diffusion and the polarization/consolidation of specific frames. Specifically, we focus on the following:
- What information is provided by sources/eyewitnesses or advocated by strategic communicators
- What information is taken up, contextualized, elaborated, and disseminated by the media
- What information is received by key media audiences and influences their conflict perceptions
Building upon this knowledge (OBJECTIVES A), INFOCORE advances four more specific, application-oriented OBJECTIVES (B) that directly support the formulation and implementation of policies by the EU and its international partners:
Objectives B.1 –– to identify key access points for media assistance programs, develop strategies to build social support for free media, combat hate speech, and foster peace and reconciliation.
- Identify key interactions that enable free reporting or interfere with the free flow of news
- Develop strategies for circumventing or overcoming obstacles and interferences from the previous point
- Develop political strategies/assistance programs for strengthening free media vis-à-vis other actors
Objectives B.2 –– to provide detailed knowledge of how media and policy actors can cooperate to build policy capabilities for understanding ongoing conflict and formulating/implementing suitable policies:
- Identify differences in the strategies/interactions characteristic for different media’s operations.
- Determine specific potentials of different media for cooperating with political decision making.
- Identify policy actors’ existing strategies for cooperating with media for policy formation.
- Develop strategies for cooperating with media actors for improving policy capabilities.
Objectives B.3 –– to create insights about the potential for using media to improve the accuracy, timeliness, and relevance of open source intelligence for the purposes of early warning and informing policy.
Objectives B.4 –– to develop evidence-based strategies for communicating toward/via media in a manner suitable for assisting mediation and dialogue, reaching out to conflict parties, and combating escalatory content.
In order to address objectives B.3 and B.4 INFOPCORE addresses the following questions:
- What information do sources and advocates strategically insert into the news?
- By what criteria do media select, validate, disseminate, and amplify these contents?
- How do media transform the information offered by sources and advocates in their coverage?
- How does the selective dissemination and transformation shape news content over time?
- Which news contents are received by media users/audiences and shape their perceptions and agendas?
In addition, INFOCORE implements a gender-sensitive perspective throughout the project, contributing to the EC’s efforts to enable and strengthen the participation of women in peace and security matters (Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, 2011; EPLO, 2012; ICG, 2006).
INFOCORE is structured into two main parts (see list below), which are dedicated to under-standing the social process of conflict news production and the dynamics of conflict news content. The part of the project that investigates news production is further structured into four Work Packages (WPs) that address the specific roles of the four main actor groups involved (journalists, political ac-tors, NGOs, and lay actors) (WP1-4). The part of the project that investigates content dynamics is similarly structured into three WPs that focus on the main steps of news dissemination (verbalization, mediation, reception) (WP6-8). WP5 focuses on conflict news in social media, where both production processes and content dynamics can be studied simultaneously. WP5 is located between these two main parts and contributes to both. Two other WPs are responsible for the dissemination of results (WP9) and the project’s management (WP10).
WP1-4: Interviewing strategy (qualitative semi-structured interviews, focus groups and quantitative surveys):
WP1 focuses on professional journalists and their characteristic role as gatekeepers in the news media.
WP2 focuses on political actors and officials in their double role as sources/advocates and audiences/users.
WP3 focuses on lay publics, primarily in their function as news media audiences.
WP4 focuses on the critical role of NGOs as news sources/mediators and actors in media assistance.
WP5-8: Content-analytic methodology (computer assisted semantic network and framing analysis)
WP5 focuses on social media, its characteristic de-differentiation of specific actor roles and types and the verbalization, transformation, & reception of evidential claims, frames, & agendas on social media.
WP6 focuses on the verbalization/strategic communication of evidential claims, frames, and agendas.
WP7 focuses on the transformation/dissemination of evidential claims, frames, and agendas in the media.
WP8 focuses on the reception of evidential claims, frames, and agendas by political elites.
WP3 includes the reception of evidential claims, frames, and agendas by lay publics.
INFOCORE focuses on three main conflict regions – the Middle East, the West Balkans, and the African Great Lakes area. Our case selection includes current conflicts that have experienced different conflict phases and cycles of escalation and de-escalation in the recent past (including non-violent phases and cycles). The selected cases differ sufficiently that the specific influence of the range of contextual factors considered can be determined. At the same time, we need to control for patterns that are specific to a single conflict, but cannot be validly generalized. To achieve this, we sample suitable cases as follows: First, we select three larger regions in the European neighbourhood that are at the centre of European Union conflict prevention and crisis management interest according to strategic papers and resource allocation. Within these regions, we then select specific conflicts that (1) have experienced phases of escalation and de-escalation in the recent past, (2) involve different countries with different political and media systems shaping the role of the media, and (3) have seen some positive or negative impact of media on the evolution of the conflict. INFOCORE traces the development of these conflicts, and the role of media in it, over their different phases from the recent past and throughout the year 2014, the start of the research project. According to the current state of international affairs, we have selected the following cases:
Region 1: Middle East
1.1 The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the military operations “Molten Lead” and “Pillar of Defense” as well as the preceding and succeeding latent (non-violent) conflict phases
2.2 The Syrian conflict, a civil war which has been high on the international policy agenda for a while, presenting an extremely relevant case and which has seen transitions between different conflict phases. Under very tense conditions, the conflict offers an unusually diverse and multifaceted view upon the processes of news production and dissemination.
Region 2: Western Balkans
2.1 The Kosovo conflict, focusing on the peace-building process after the war in 1998–99, including Kosovo’s declaration of independence and ensuing tensions with Serbia and their possible impact on the region
2.2 The inter-ethnic conflict in Macedonia, including the recent outbreak of violence between Albanian and Macedonian groups and subsequent inter-ethnic and inter-religious tension
Region 3: Great Lakes in Africa
3.1 The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), specifically the ongoing violence in Eastern DRC, including the recent rise of the rebel group M23
3.2 The Conflict in Burundi, including the electoral success of rebel groups in 2010 and the violence occurring on a daily basis; Burundi is widely considered a “laboratory” for peace builders despite continuing allegations of media-fuelled hatred and violence, including media supported by peace-building initiatives.
For references, see appendix.
Conflict phases: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_conflict-phases.pdf
Escalation and de-escalation: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_escalation-de-escalation.pdf
Evidential beliefs /claims: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/def_evidential-beliefs.pdf
Gender-sensitive perspective: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_Gender-Sensitive_Perspective.pdf
Lay publics: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_Media_Active_Lay_Publics.pdf
News dissemination: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_news-dissemination.pdf
News production: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_news_production.pdf
Political debates: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_Political_debates.pdf
Source / Advocate: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_Source_Advocate.pdf
Strategic Communication: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_Strategic_Communicator-_-Strategic-Communication.pdf
Strategic Communicator: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_Strategic_Communicator-_-Strategic-Communication.pdf
Violent conflict: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_violent-conflict.pdf
The overall objective of the WP1 was to analyse how journalistic professional values and routines, their interactions with sources, audiences and other actors, and various contextual factors shape the production of conflict-related news.
The WP1 started its work by generating knowledge about news production and conflict by gathering information and creating definitions regarding news and conflict profiles of the cases that Infocore focuses on. With this step, WP1 ensured to be on the right track when working on the theoretical framework and methodology for the research with journalists covering conflict from inside conflict regions as well as those based in European capitals, such as Brussels, or European countries, such as France, Germany and the UK.
The first step taken to frame the research was to create the theoretical basis for the research questions as per Project Document. The theoretical framework recognized two main avenues through which news production is influenced by contextual forces. First, the framework recognized seven generic sub-domains of influence that are generally found to be restricting and enabling journalists’ work: socio-cultural identity, political influences, economic imperatives, reference groups, professional ideology, professional practice, and professional routines.
Second, the framework argued that conflict news production is influenced by a number of additional, context-related forces that specifically pertain to the conflict itself. It is often said that media coverage may contribute to constructive or destructive outcomes of disputes in conflict and, thus, it has the capacity to escalate or de-escalate conflicts. The identification of context-related forces recognizes that it is not only the news media, their professional routines and the journalists who drive coverage toward escalation or de-escalation, but it is also the conflicts themselves that we assumed to have a decisive influence on conflict coverage.
The research framework focused on three main stages of the news production process. The first stage is ‘story ideation’, which includes four ways of how a story can come into being: proactive (the impulse to research a story comes from the journalist), reactive (the story is initiated through a person or institution outside journalism), follow-up (journalists follow up on previous coverage), and event-driven (journalists respond to real events).
The second stage of analysis is the ‘story narration’, which refers to the process of the development of a story narrative as well as its narrative context. Story narration provides an answer to the question of “How to tell the story”, taking account of the story-telling function of journalism. Three important aspects of story narration play out in the production of news: the central narrative (the “story”), the story angle (the perspective from which to tell the story), and the story framing (the embedding of a story within an established interpretative framework).
‘Story presentation’ is the third stage in the (partly iterative) sequence of news production because it is only after journalists identified a central narrative (the “story”), they build their coverage in a way that is consistent with the story line. In so doing, they establish discursive authority over the material they present as to be a “true” account of what happened. Four elements are central for the process of story presentation: selection (choice of information, facts, sources, sound bites and other substantive aspects), emphasis (not all of these elements are presented as equally important or relevant), Links and references are important because news accounts do not exist within a narrative vacuum. In their reporting journalists consistently make reference to previous coverage – of their own, or of other colleagues/news media – thereby linking their accounts to other news pieces. It is for this reason that individual news accounts have to be understood within a complex discursive nexus of news coverage (explanation), and cues (links between a news account and real-world occurrences).
On this basis of this theoretical framework, WP1 in collaboration with other WPs prepared and conducted 220 in-depth interviews reconstructing more than 350 news stories from eleven different locations including seven conflict cases. Using such a methodology proved innovative and useful in finding more information on how news comes into being by engaging and confronting journalists in the field.
To enable deeper research on the subject of news production, the WP1 used retrospective reconstructive interviews as primary methodological tool to collect data from journalists in the respective regions of conflict. These face-to-face interviews focused on aspects of journalistic news productions in conflict, as well as on generic and conflict-related influences on the news production.
These aspects were explored through a ‘reconstructing narrative’ using stories from the past covered by journalist and seeing how we can reconstruct the making of such news and gauge the importance of generic of conflict-related influences. In addition, the interviews featured a brief survey in order to gather some relevant contextual information from the journalists. The interview took between 60 and 90 minutes. The central part of the interview focused on the discussion with journalists about substantive aspects of the selected stories that were subject to reconstruction. This part focuses the interview on three phases of news production, story ideation, story narration and story presentation.
WP1 found that journalists develop the story narratives early in the news production process. They work in selecting facts to support that narrative. In conflict, journalists have particular routine in news ideation which depends on network of colleagues and interactions with sources in order to create an intellectual reconstruction of “reality” by actualizing the factual evidence that speaks best to the central narrative of a story and that best “exemplifies” what they think has “really” happened.
The goal of this work package was to explore the ongoing interactions between political leaders involved in violent conflicts and the many different types of media. Leaders involved in conflicts see the media as a major tool for promoting their views both domestically and internationally. It is important to remember however that leaders also react to what appears in the media and thus the direction of influence runs in both directions. While this is a topic that has received a good deal of scholarly attention over the years one of the most important contributions of the present research is to try to answer the question: “what has changed in the digital age”. It should be clear to even the naïve observer that the development of the Internet and especially the social media have created a very different media environment in much of the world. While the interviews that were carried out in the different conflict zones provided a wealth of insights this brief summary will relate to five findings that seem especially important.
The first finding is that political power remains an important determinant in the ability of leaders to have an impact on both the traditional and new media. The fact that political power can often be translated into power over the traditional media is well established in the literature. What is less well established is that, although there are important caveats that are detailed below, those with political power are also in a better position to exploit the new media. While the ease of access to the digital media has provided certain new opportunities for weaker antagonists, the level of organization, resources, and the ability to carry out newsworthy actions continue to provide the powerful important advantages in the digital world.
The second finding may, at first glance, seem like a contradiction to the first: The social media have become an important resource for weaker internal and external leaders to promote their frames to a variety of domestic and international audiences. This is a significant development because weaker antagonists now have a powerful tool for mobilizing potential and actual supporters and to present competing frames to a variety of audiences. One of the reasons this change can be important is that it provides weaker antagonists the possibility of mobilizing third parties into the conflict and in doing so provide opportunities for closing somewhat the gap between them and their more powerful adversaries.
A third finding also demonstrates that those attempting to translate political power into power over the media do face some new obstacles: Despite the advantages they enjoy, those with power have found it increasingly difficult to maintain control over the flow of information concerning conflicts in the digital age. One of the most significant changes that have taken place is the ability of citizens involved in conflicts to film and upload video clips from conflict zones. This has proved to be especially important when security forces have carried out acts of violence against civilians. This technological development not only allows victims to be heard it also serves as a deterrent because security forces have come to internalize the increasing likelihood that their actions will be recorded and distributed around the world. The digital age has also made it more difficult for the powerful to keep secrets as leaks of sensitive and embarrassing information have become increasingly routine.
The fourth finding has to do with the speed of information flow in the digital age. Political leaders involved in conflicts in the digital age feel pressure to respond and/or make decisions much quicker than in the past. Many of the political leaders we spoke to saw this as major problem which can have a significant influence on the decision making process. This is not, albeit, a totally new development as leaders have been complaining about this problem since the dawn of the “24 hour news cycle”. Nevertheless, pressures to respond to ongoing events have risen exponentially in the digital age. This new development may prove to be especially dangerous in the course of violent conflicts where passions run high and rash responses can have serious consequences.
The fifth finding is perhaps even more worrisome: The Internet in general and the social media in particular are more likely to be exploited for the spread of hate and violence by political leaders than for promoting peace and reconciliation. While some may have hoped that the digital age would somehow increase the chances for conflict resolution almost all of the leaders who were interviewed came to exactly the opposite conclusion. There has always been an inherent contradiction between the needs of traditional news and the demands of a peace process but it would appear that the development of the Internet has taken a bad situation and made it worse. Policy makers interested in lowering the number and intensity of violent conflicts need to give considerable thought to significant measures that can be implemented to limit the potential dangers associated with this new development without overly restricting freedom of speech.
These five major findings should not be seen as an exhaustive list of the insights that have emerged from this research. Nevertheless they all point to extremely important avenues for future research in this field. The media environment surrounding violent conflicts has changed dramatically in recent years and those who hope to better understand the role the media play in such confrontations have a great deal of work ahead of them.
1. Development of a theoretical framework for analyzing publics/audiences
2. Completion of fieldwork for WP3: implementation of research design for each conflict case, quantitative and qualitative
3. Completion of qualitative interviews for work packages WP1, WP2 and WP4 in Macedonia, Kosovo, Burundi and the DRC
4. Completion of dictionaries in Serbian, Macedonian, Albanian and French for the ACA (WP5, WP6, WP7, WP8)
5. Completion of deliverables: (1) Methodological Framework: Media & Publics; (2) Research Article: Media & Publics; (3) Policy Brief: Media Assistance Strategies
6. Organisation of the stakeholder seminars in Ohrid/Macedonia and in Gisenyi/Rwanda (WP9)
Achievements by conflict case:
Macedonia: 12 focus groups in three waves, MaxQDA analysis; face-to-face survey with 1028 respondents; SPSS quantitative data analysis;
Kosovo: 12 focus groups in three waves, MaxQDA analysis;
Israel: face-to-face survey with 714 respondents; SPSS quantitative data analysis;
Palestine: face-to-face survey with 886 respondents; SPSS quantitative data analysis;
Syria: quantitative face-to-face survey with 601 participants (target area: Damascus / Rif Dimashq); SPSS data analysis;
Burundi: 12 focus groups in two waves (before/after elections; different areas), MaxQDA data analysis;
DR Congo: 14 focus groups in three waves (Kinshasa + Eastern DRC), MaxQDA data analysis;
Conceptual distinction between the notions of ‘Interactive Audiences’ and ‘Media Active Lay Publics’
We make a theoretical distinction between the notions of ‘audiences’ and ‘lay publics’. Audiences are conceived to be a composition of ‘isolated’ individuals, who are receivers of news. Nevertheless, they may individually react to or interact with the media, in which case they are referred to as Interactive Audiences. Lay publics are, on the other hand, conceptualized as those non-expert audience segments that act towards an emergence of their agenda for action and that in doing so perceive themselves as members of a value or issue specific group. In short, we take audiences to be a “number of unidentifiable people united by their participation in media use”, and we take lay publics to be self-imagined non-expert groups whose members interact towards creating an agenda for action. Those lay publics who act through the media and social networks in order to advance their agenda on certain issues with respect to their collectively constructed values, are referred to as Media Active Lay Publics - MALPs.
The research identified differences and similarities among the IAs and MALPs in the various conflict contexts which we claim are very informative of the circumstances under which these conflicts may escalate or de-escalate. We have developed insights into (a) the level of diversity of information sources to which IAs and MALPs are exposed; (b) their interpretations and perceptions about the nature of the conflict and about the role of media in the conflict escalation; and (c) the types of interaction IAs and MALPs initiate with both the traditional media and alternative channels of communication in the conflict zones. This is, we claim, of special relevance for discovering the contexts and conditions under which the conflict news coverage may perpetuate understanding of the conflict that may lead to constructive or destructive agendas for action.
2. Media use patterns
Domestic media channels (television in Macedonia, Kosovo, Israel, Palestine and Syria; radio in Burundi and DR Congo) are the most relevant sources of information for the audiences in all six conflict cases. Regional, neighbouring or international channels are important sources when media users experience a lack of information by domestic media channels or when the access to local media is restricted for any reason. Social networks and news websites are frequently used sources of information in countries where technology has reached high penetration. Word of mouth is a highly important source of information in all cases, in particular in cases of imminent danger.
Audience’s exposure to different media depends on several factors: access to media and diversity of media offer, linguistic barriers, ethnic lines, social and political control and level of stability / instability in the situation of conflict (“level of orientation” and “need for cognition”).
3. Perceptions, attitudes and interpretations
Ethnic affiliation and ethnocentric attitudes of the audiences and publics play a significant role in the perception of conflict-related news coverage. For example, the survey results indicated that audience segments belonging to one ethnic community perceive the media of the ‘Other’ ethnic community as ethnocentrically oriented and these perceptions are very much correlated to their pre-existing ethnocentric attitudes (“hostile media effect”).
Level of trust in conflict-related news coverage is rather low in all conflict cases, but the media are nonetheless important for reasons of orientation and guidance.
Satisfaction with conflict-related news coverage is connected with the accessibility and diversity of (domestic) media outlets, the subjective feeling of being well-informed and pre-existing beliefs, attitudes and expectations.
Audiences and publics clearly recognize political affiliations of the media and realize that those may be misused by politicians in order to ‘create’ tensions among the main sides in the conflict.
4. Interaction with the media
The degree of interaction with the traditional media is much lower in countries where the audiences have access to alternative channels of communication (social networks, blogs, news portals). Those having better access are more likely to engage than those not having access, as traditional media is perceived as politically manipulated and often inaccessible to the public.
Interaction through social networks and alternative media channels increases in times of conflicts, provided that the infrastructure is functional, people don’t fear any negative effects and digital media literacy is given.
Media Active Lay Publics as members of an informal group of people engage with the media and social networks in order to advance their agenda with respect to their collectively constructed values. For example, in Macedonia, the survey results indicated that significant part of the audience (15%) belongs to MALPs.
What role do Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) play in mediatised communication of violent conflict and peace-building? Work package 4 aimed to analyse NGOs’ communication strategies and their influence on media coverage and actors. We also investigated what practitioners can learn from our findings. The findings are based on 135 interviews with local and international NGOs in 9 countries, NGO-related sections of more than 300 interviews with journalists, political actors and lay-audiences, as well as a comprehensive media corpus including output from a range of local and international media.
We found that NGOs are playing an increasingly influential role in mediatised debates about armed conflicts in the six cases. The visibility of NGOs in conflict coverage has almost doubled in a period of only five years: the proportional share of media articles containing an explicit reference to NGOs has risen from under 1 to nearly 2 percent, not counting reports that rely on NGO contributions without explicitly mentioning them. Interestingly, NGOs are used less as a source of recommendation of action but primarily as a source of factual conflict information. In our interviews, we found that NGOs see the provision of timely and reliable ‘facts’ as a door-opener for increased media presence and funding.
The share of local and semi-local NGOs is higher than expected with around 30 percent amongst those references. Their rise is particularly strong in cases with high levels of violence such as Syria where comparatively new and small organisations such as the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights or Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently have been able to report from places where political repression and the security situation have made it next to impossible for foreign but also domestic journalists to continue their work. Furthermore, we observed a very high yet constant media presence of local NGOs in conflict countries that are less in the focus of global news, such as the DRC and especially Burundi, where local NGOs represent up to 90 percent of all NGO references. In these contexts, lacking permanent foreign correspondents, local NGOs become an influential source of coverage.
Most media references originate from a small group of “advocacy superpowers” such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, or Doctors without Borders. They have large budgets compared to most media organisations and this enables them to hire and support country and issue experts as well as former journalists, providing the latter with job security and work conditions that have become the exception in most media organisations. Their influence is amplified by the long-term trend of media cut backs as a result of the funding crisis caused by a mixture of new technology, changing audience consumption patterns and shifts in advertising. These NGOs have become increasingly sophisticated and “media-like”, targeting carefully different audiences, setting up newsrooms, editorial guidelines and disseminating their reports through social media and their website. They build their credibility through day-to-day information, good deeds on the ground and meticulously researched reports. But they also wield some indirect influence through sponsoring and supporting news coverage by providing travel funding, logistical support in the field, or contacts with local populations to journalists.
NGOs differ not just in their resources, geographical reach and actual influence, but also their outlook and communication strategies. Key factors are their mandates and activity profiles, for instance, conflict prevention and peace-building, human rights promotion, and humanitarian action through NGOs such as MSF. Secondly, NGOs differ in their funding structure and in particular the degree to which they are reliant on particular types of donors and indeed how diversified and stable their funding streams are. Thirdly, NGO communications are affected by operational and security requirements for their staff in conflict settings which limit how and what they communicate. Finally, NGOs reflect and adjust to the main political culture they operate within, shaping how they see themselves as completely separate from and critical of government/IOs. It is therefore problematic to talk about “the role of NGOs” without further differentiation.
What positive difference do NGOs make for media coverage and conflict dynamics?
- NGOs play an indispensable part in providing citizens and policy-makers with highly relevant, reliable and verifiable factual information about conflicts and human rights abuses that would otherwise be noticed too late, not at all or be misunderstood. A number of NGOs have established fact-checking standards superior to journalistic standards as they are under less time pressure with more resources, put a premium on protecting their reputation from errors, or need to reach legal evidential standards.
- The high-quality monitoring of human rights abuses can serve as an early warning indicator of impending conflict escalation. Such escalation trends are typically missed by media that tend to pay attention only when large-scale violence has erupted and it is too late for preventive action. They can also contribute to verifying contested claims about who is responsible for violent acts such as in Syria (Ghouta) and Macedonia (Kumanovo). Some NGOs also provide actionable and well-informed suggestions for policy-makers and mobilise their links to International Organisations and governments to make timely and effective conflict prevention or mitigation more likely.
- By shedding light on human rights abuses and political repression and shaming the perpetrators, NGOs can also increase the political costs of such behaviour and counter-act impunity. Moreover, local NGOs can give voice to marginalized populations in situations where domestic media are not free to report and opposition parties are repressed or corrupted. In those cases, NGOs fill also gaps in political representation.
More problematic findings for high quality media coverage and conflict prevention are:
- Given the strong presence of human rights-focused NGOs in conflict news, the risk arises that policy makers and public perceptions of a conflict are solely based on moral or legal framing. Some of these NGOs go beyond their area of expertise when offering conflict analyses or calling for particular kinds of action that could be counter-productive in specific situations, for instance, prematurely calling for punitive measures. Only few NGOs such as the International Crisis Group adopt holistic perspectives. This can hinder a better understanding of the motives of all conflict parties and how they might be persuaded to engage with diplomacy.
- Some more recently created and local NGOs have emerged out of political activism and can struggle to maintain a distance to some of the conflict parties given ideological proximity, personal networks, as well as resource and security considerations. In the cases of fragile peace, local NGOs are often dragged into polarized domestic politics and media systems and suffer from repressive measures and exclusion by state authorities, making it difficult to assert their independent viewpoint and credibility.
- From the perspective of informed public debate, the growing and sometimes hidden influence of NGOs may gradually devalue independent journalistic research and lower the incentive for media organisations to invest in quality research and country or regional expertise. A diminishing role of journalists working as critical filters might increase the risk of news coverage reflecting inadvertently NGOs’ organisational agendas, whether related to their missions, mandates or fund-raising goals. NGOs need to make their funding structure clearer and journalists need to make better use of this information. Media organisations also need to find ways of acquiring more country and conflict expertise, if necessary partnering with independent researchers and academics.
The overall objective of WP5 was to analyze how the interaction between various kinds of actors, as well as key contextual factors, shape the production of conflict-related content in social media. WP5 highlighted social media’s role in transforming the global media landscape by redistributing the power of information and communication among the involved actors: political actors, journalists, NGOs and citizens. As social media influence political participation and civic engagement (especially after the Arab Spring) in the complex contemporary geopolitical terrain, they profoundly (re)shape politics and political discourse.
WP5 started its work by identifying key events within the studied conflicts that were crucial for the escalation or de-escalation of each one. Escalation phases were easier to be determined, as social media debate tends to inflate when a crisis or violent incidents unfold, while there is little proof that de-escalation phases could be correlated with social media. We decided to define specific time frames in the different conflict cases due to several reasons: First, the massive volume of data on social media platforms and many technical restrictions for data acquisition impelled us to be highly selective on the conflict events that we focused on. Second and more importantly, social media became increasingly popular and important as tools for information, communication and mobilization purposes, especially after the advent of the Arab Spring. As such, we mostly focused on conflict events that appear as highly relevant for social media which were mainly after 2014. This methodological sampling strategy has enabled us to approach social media and networks as a fluid online space, a dynamic interactive ‘arena’ that is evolving as we speak.
To address the objectives of WP5, we have introduced a multi-modal synthesis of quantitative as well as qualitative approaches, combining content and network analysis and Discourse Historical Approach to Critical Discourse Studies. Moreover, our team has incorporated findings from other WPs (working mainly with interviews, focus groups and surveys) regarding both the news production and news dissemination processes in- and outside social media. As a result, we were able to integrate the findings and contextualize the interactions and constructions taking place on social media in order to discuss important similarities and differences between conflict news produced and disseminated in social media as compared to professional mass media. Our aim was to suggest an interdisciplinary approach that could be developed into a tuneable model and be applied to the study of social media in violent conflicts as well as other social media contexts. As an analysis of social media texts needs to be linked to people, discourses and contexts, interdisciplinary and multi-methodical approaches should be interweaved in order to provide a holistic meaning to the role of social media in conflict-ridden societies from both a communication and social science perspective.
Our findings highlighted four main functions of social media, depending on the actors involved and the unique characteristics of each conflict under study: a. direct and interactive communication channels, b. alternative information providers/sources, c. self-organized participatory networks for mobilization purposes and d. propaganda tools. Furthermore, our findings link the usage of social media -especially in violent events or long-lasting political turmoil-to growing patterns of homophily that emerge online. Network analysis has helped us to monitor how interaction demonstrates strong homophily patterns between polarised groups and how users are commonly segregated within like-minded communities forming isolated echo chambers and in-group and out-group affiliations.
Our analysis led to three separate publications that reveal the innovative character of our study, focusing on the conflicts in Israel/Palestine, Burundi and Macedonia. By focusing on the way the Burundian leadership and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel used Twitter during political crises and drawing upon a systematic and explicit multi-methodological approach, we uncovered hegemonic discourses and power relations. We emphasized Twitter as a means of hegemonic discourses; a platform that is used by political leaders to communicate their political agenda and legitimize their political decisions on conflict cases. Moreover, by focusing on the discursive dichotomy of ‘Us’, the nation and ‘Them’, the enemies, we revealed silent strategies that lead to the rise populism and polarization. Thus, through our interdisciplinary study, we attempted to trace a micro-politics of fear that seems to dominate most of the political leaders’ social media discourses and shape our current online reality. Our latest paper on the Macedonia conflict captured the various discursive and interactive flows of the recent political crisis that has been fuelling the national/interethnic conflict since 2015. Emphasis was placed on the prominent actors that dominate in the Twitter debate, as well as on unfolding patterns of communication to understand the different political and social narratives that evolve online.
Overview of achievements:
1. Development of conceptual and theoretical framework for analyzing social media and networks.
2. Development of methodological framework for the analysis of social media in violent conflicts and research design for each conflict case (according to socio-political and historical context).
3. Collection of conflict-related content on social media platforms (Twitter for quantitative analysis, Facebook for qualitative analysis).
4. Contribution to the interview guides for WP1, WP2, WP3 and WP4.
5. Completion of deliverables a. Methodological Framework: Social Media, b. Research Article: Social Media and c. Research Article: Interactive Content Production.
Strategic communicators/strategic actors are cooperating with media, because they (rightly) assume that this is a key component of successful influence on public discourse, public opinion and (subsequently) political decision-making. Public discourse, however, is a very competitive evidence environment in which strategic communication of diverse (strategic) actors competes for sovereignty over (problem/issue) definition and resolution. This in particular applies to the current ‘post factual’ era, where strategic communicators in the field of conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building try to fight back escalative strategic communication, fake news and/or hate speech. Previous research shows that the credibility of a communicator/source and the persuasiveness of his/her/its message increase when the message contains evidence. Against this backdrop, we assume that the quality and excellence of media-related strategic communication are essential for its success and influence in competitive evidence environments. This is why WP 6 considers (the particular level of) ‘evidence’ (= provision of source/origin of an evidential claim) of media-related strategic communication and its ‘epistemic status’ (provision of information concerning the certainty or uncertainty of an evidential claim) as key criterion of the normative quality and the success/influence of strategic communication. As a result, we (so far) have been focussing on the analysis of (1) the evidence and (2) the epistemic status of media-related communication of two types of actors; NGOs in the field of conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building initiatives and political actors/decision makers (including the EU). We have been asking: Do the respective actors communicate the epistemic status of their evidential claims on war and armed/violent conflict and how transparently do they communicate sources/origins of evidence (through references to authors and/or provenience of the presented evidential claims)? Furthermore: Do the provision of evidence and the attribution of epistemic statuses to evidential claims differ between topical domains, actors and/or conflicts?
With the help of a computer-assisted content analysis we investigated the media-related strategic conflict communication of the respective actors on the basis of their English, German and French strategic publications (further languages will follow) –– from press releases and PR-magazines to manuscripts of press conferences or speeches. Our findings reveal that the normative quality of respective evidential claims – evaluated according to the quality and quantity of evidence provision (= source/origin of evidential claims) and the number of references to certainty or uncertainty (= epistemic status) – is high in the topical domains of violence/escalation and de-escalation. However, other (important) topics (for instance non-violent conflict actions, humanitarian and developmental aid, human rights) cannot benefit from such a comparatively high normative quality in strategic communicators’ media-related communication. This applies to both groups of actors. Furthermore, we found that big trans-/international organisations and actors provide significantly more references to sources/origins of evidential claims (evidence) than local ones. The same can be said about references to certainty and uncertainty (epistemic status). We find it problematic, that in general between 47% (NGOs) and 40% (political actors/decision makers) of all media-related strategic texts do not provide any source specification for the evidential claims they include. These high shares are disappointing.
Concerning the success of the media-related strategic communication analysed in our project, our data shows a significant effect: The higher the provision of evidence in an actor’s communication texts, the higher the number of references to it in international media coverage. The overall better performance concerning evidence therefore clearly pays off, with higher resonance quotas in international media (we so far analysed SZ, Welt, CNN, Al-Jazeera, NYT, BBC, RFI, Guardian, Daily Telegraph). For local media in conflict regions, interestingly, there is no correlation between provision of evidence in communication texts and the number of references in media coverage. Thus we assume, for local media/journalists in the six conflict regions, evidence in (media-related) strategic communication might be less important than for international media.
While our research showed similar results for the media-related communication of NGOs and political actors/decision makers, we revealed a few but interesting deviations: Firstly, strategic communication deriving from political entities has higher visibility in media coverage than NGO communication. Secondly, different from NGOS, political actors can increase their media citation ratios (in every conflict) when producing more communication. This applies in particular to international media citations. Here, the primary predictors of political actors’/decision makers’ media resonance is not only the share of texts that contained evidence but – unlike for NGOs – also the overall number of texts. The importance of the provision of evidence is further underlined by a statistical correlation between the number of texts distributed by the political actors and the share of texts that contained evidence. For local media, the data again offer a less clear picture. Here, the only relevant predictor of political actors’ media resonance seems to be the number of distributed texts. This might mean that, in local media, factors that could not be measured played important roles, for instance, trust in political communicators, political affiliation or established relations between journalists and politicians. Overall, the data showed that, for both international and local media, political actors who were directly involved or acting on the (conflict) ground had higher impacts on the news coverage. Furthermore, there were no significant differences in the overall impacts of political actors’/decision makers’ communication between the conflicts. All together this means that the media is always open to political communication on conflicts, independent of the conflict context itself.
Concerning differences between conflicts: The discourse about Burundi, for example, shows the least level of provided evidence for both used indicators (‘epistemology’ and ‘sources’) and both actor groups (political actors and NGOs). Interestingly, the respective distribution of the level of evidence across conflicts shows a stable rank order independent from the particular actor group and the indicators ‘epistemology’ and ‘sources’. This means that the nature of the particular conflict appears to have an impact on the particular degree of epistemology and the particular share of sources of evidence. Macedonia, for instance, represents a conflict with no or only very marginal restrictions of access for international observers. Furthermore, Macedonia and Kosovo, but also Israel/Palestine, have long phases of relative de-escalation where it is possible to gather information on the ground without being in danger. Also, the tight polarisation of the political discourse seems to contribute to the necessity to support ones claims with more evidence. Contrary to this, a conflict like Syria, which has a comparatively high level of violence and insecurity on the ground makes it difficult to gather evidence for claims. This might explain why according to our findings, Syria ranks (very) low in matters concerning the level of evidence.
And finally: Our findings revealed that the shares of female voices in strategic communication texts of NGOs and political actors/decision makers are extremely low for our two African conflicts in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The extreme underrepresentation of female voices in strategic discourses in and about these two crisis cases can be seen regardless of the provenance/origin of the analysed texts (international actors, EU, local communicators).
Against the backdrop of what has been said about the normative quality and the success/influence of strategic communication, WP6 revealed problematic findings. They show, that actors in the field of conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building needed improvement concerning the normative quality and excellence of their media-related strategic communication –– including the particular underrepresentation of African female voices.
Evidential claims and beliefs: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/def_evidential-beliefs.pdf
Strategic communicator/strategic communication: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_Strategic_Communicator-_-Strategic-Communication.pdf
Violent conflict: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/def_violent-conflict.pdf
The overall objective of WP7 is to analyze how evidential claims, frames, and agendas are selected, transformed, and disseminated in the media, depending on various contextual factors.
To address this overall objective, WP7 performed seven main tasks, which resulted in three deliverables, 17 publications, and a large number of conference presentations. Another outcome led by WP7 is the programming of a software platform for automated content analysis, together with a range of specific tools for the analysis of conflict-related discourse texts.
As a first task, we collated a conceptual framework that distinguished two main levels of journalistic transformation: A micro-level, inter-textual form of transformation, and a discourse-level, over-time evolution of the journalistic discourse. This conceptual framework resulted in INFOCORE Working Paper 2014/07. At the same time, WP7 led the effort toward a conceptual framework uniting the content-analytic WPs, resulting in another conceptual framework paper, published as INFOCORE Working Paper 2014/10.
The second task consisted in the translation of said conceptual frameworks into a methodological strategy for empirical research. In INFOCORE Working Paper 2015/07, we specify both a qualitative methodological strategy directed at identifying subtle interventions that journalists perform when transforming source texts into news, and a quantitative, automated strategy building upon the insights gained from the qualitative stage, which enables us to trace shifts in the journalistic coverage over time. The methodological working papers also specify the sampling strategy for WP7, which resulted in the collection of more than 2 million texts from 69 news outlets in 6 conflict regions and the international realm for analysis by WP7. After filtering for relevant texts, approximately 1 million texts remained as WP7’s main corpus. Again, this methodological strategy was embedded within a wider methodological strategy uniting the content analytic WPs, which we published as INFOCORE Working Paper 2015/10.
In parallel, we developed the JAmCAT software platform for automated discourse analysis, which went online in winter 2014/15. This platform serves as a data base for all collected data from WP7 as well as WPs 5, 6, and 8, and includes an ever-growing range of analytic scripts and tools. The JAmCAT platform is scheduled for release as open source platform in 2017, and will serve as access point for INFOCORE’s data for other researchers in the future.
For the fourth task, the main challenge consisted in the construction of an ontology and dictionary for the automated recognition of relevant contents in the news coverage (and other forms of discourse). Accordingly, we embarked on a complex procedure specified in the common methodological framework, departing from an inductive discourse analysis of diverse media texts to identify all relevant, meaning-carrying entities, activities, and qualifications expressed in conflict-related discourse. After grouping equivalent contents, we arrived at a dictionary with 3738 unique coded concepts, which we operationalized using between 10.000 and 15.000 search phrases per language, in eight languages (Albanian, Arabic, English, French, German, Hebrew, Macedonian, Serbian; this massive effort included active contributions from and extensive coordination with most other WPs, most notably, the teams at SJPR and LMU). Using this dictionary, we identified all occurrences of said concepts in all collected texts, and determined the pattern of concept co-occurrences, constructing a semantic network representation. From the patterns of detected concept co-occurrences, we can both trace the evolution of news contents over time, and also detect subtle changes in the contents of related texts between different sources.
WP7’s main analysis combined a variety of quantitative and qualitative techniques, addressing both journalistic practices on a micro-level, and the overall dynamics of news coverage over time. In our research article, we gain an overview over the relative prominence of a range of important biases and dysfunctions in journalistic conflict coverage across our six analyzed conflicts and over time (forthcoming in Media, War & Conflict). In order to gain a more detailed understanding of journalistic transformations and addressing characteristic patterns in media selectivity, we conducted a qualitative study of different Israeli, Palestinian and foreign media’s coverage of the events leading toward the 2014 Gaza war and identified five main interventions that serve to construct relevant news from available information (published in Journalism). The same study also led to the identification of three main framing strategies that journalists use to make sense of conflict-related events (published in Journalism Studies). Looking deeper at journalists’ strategies for framing identity and intergroup conflict, we focused on characteristic shifts in the news that coincide with moments of violent escalation, and highlighted the delicate role of collective memories in this process (presented at ICA and ECREA). We conducted another study that traced how journalists adapt, invent and discard frames and evidential beliefs as conflict events unfold in the Syrian CW crisis (presented at ICA).
Building upon the rich findings from our main analysis, and integrating the insights with the data and findings produced by the other WPs, we traced the transmission of specific ideas from strategic communication into the news, social media, and the political debate. In our final deliverable, we present a case study of the different finalities and visions of a time after the war presented by relevant conflict actors in the Syrian civil war. Using semantic network analysis to identify what exactly each group aspires to achieve for the conflict to reach closure, how agendas align and evolve over time, we traced these ideas through both domestic and foreign news media, and identified when and where these influenced also the discourse in social media and the European, British, and Syrian parliaments. Assuming a long-term perspective, we traced how different news outlets in the Middle East and across the globe use the same sources to cover the same events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (published in Journal of Communication); the same study develops a matrix that delineates important media-related, contextual and systemic influences upon the coverage. Integrating findings with WP1’s perspective on journalistic news production as a process, we analyzed how contacts and collaborations between journalists on different sides of a conflict influence and shape the news coverage (presented at ICA); and in a large scale comparison of news coverage produced by Israeli and Congolese journalists, we identified characteristic tendencies differentiating the conflict news written by women and men, highlighting the importance of gender-related differences and underscoring the potential of strengthening the representation of female journalists in conflict news reporting.
Taken together, the collected data, constructed analytic tools and strategies, and listed foregrounds and outcomes cover the objectives and tasks specified for WP7, and provide new insights and ample opportunities for further investigation.
JAmCAT software platform: http://jamcat.mscc.huji.ac.il/
WP8’s main interest revolves around the reception of conflict news contents in parliamentary debates. However, WP8 analysed also the interplay with other conflict actors such as social/digital media, NGOs and other strategic communicators.
The first scientific result delivered by WP8 was the conceptual framework, which synthesised the main academic publications concerning parliamentary agenda-building, that is to say, the process through which some items succeed in entering parliamentary discussions. The conceptual framework also addressed other key theoretical paradigms and concepts for analysing the content of parliamentary debates and its relationship with media discourses.
The second scientific result obtained by WP8 was the methodological framework which developed the methodological procedure to accomplish the knowledge goals through a multi-step, qualitative-quantitative mixed design. WP8’s main questions and research interests were also formulated, as well as the sampling strategy to collect the parliamentary files concerning the investigated conflicts.
After the long retrieval stage, WP8 did a preliminary investigation on the conflict key concepts used in parliamentary debates in Europe over time. Positive conflict concepts (such as humanitarian or peace indicators) appeared to have a higher average presence in parliamentary discussions than negative conflict concepts (criminal or violence indicators). Furthermore, all these key conflict concepts were positively correlated to media presence, which means that as the mentions of news and media actors increase, so does the appearance of conflict concepts (criminal, humanitarian, peace or violence) in parliamentary discourses. A common agenda or even a potential media influence over parliamentary debates was pointed out. Moreover, it seems that the presence of media in parliamentary debates is not only marked by negative framing but also by a type of coverage that points towards humanitarian relief.
In the specific cases of the Syrian civil war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, WP8 learnt that media presence in parliamentary debates increases during focusing events in the conflicts, particularly during escalation phases. In these cases, media appeared as key informative channels that can be instrumentalized to support MPs’ arguments and also as a dangerous dispositive. MPs usually express their concern about the partial image of the conflict that can be transmitted given the censorship, as well as their concern regarding the negative effects that media may have on public opinion due to the hard scenes conveyed, which hurt the sensitivities of the audience and also give constituents the impression that MPs have failed in the resolution of the crisis. Furthermore, media is perceived as capable of radicalizing spectators because of the proliferation of fundamentalist channels.
However, one of the most important results obtained by WP8 is the importance of social media in the parliamentary arena, where it has a higher presence than traditional media and other strategic communicators. This has been confirmed by an analysis of European parliamentary debates on the conflicts of Syria, Israel-Palestine, Macedonia and Kosovo studied by INFOCORE as well as by an analysis of the parliamentary debates on domestic conflict situations in the Serbian National Assembly, the Assembly of Kosovo and in the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia. Social media is especially relevant with regard the Syrian conflict, where digital surveillance takes place and internet and mobile phone services appear to be controlled by the government. This serious issue has in fact been debated at the European Parliament, which concluded that the need to protect freedom of expression regarding social media is vital and discussed the possibility of banning the export of surveillance, security and censoring technologies to countries such as Syria, where human rights are violated.
On the other side of the coin, NGOs have the lowest presence in parliamentary debates, which indicates that this type of organisation still has difficulties to access and influence political institutions.
In general, WP8 observed that the attention given to these three actors varies depending on the parliament studied. British Parliament, compared with the other European parliaments studied, appears to give the most attention to traditional media, social media and NGOs. In the case of the Western Balkans conflict, the Assembly of Kosovo pays the most attention to media while the Serbian National Assembly is the parliament that focuses most on digital media. Additionally, WP8 has found differences depending on the conflict analysed. Thus, the Kosovo conflict seems to be more mediatized in the parliamentary arena than the Macedonian conflict, similar to what happened with the Syrian civil war when compared with the Israel-Palestine conflict. An explanation can be found in the fact that, since the Syrian upraising, mobile phone videos uploaded to YouTube and Facebook have become ‘instruments of war’ offering an alternative point of view to public discourses on the conflict.
Concerning the post-conflict situations of Burundi and the DRC, WP8 has focused on the threats experienced daily by women in the form of sexual violence. In European parliamentary debates women are mainly correlated with two specific roles: they appear as victims (most of the time) or as perpetrators. Positive roles, that of peace-builders or negotiators, appear less. In any case, the connection between women and these four roles is associated with the presence of international media (African media are less mentioned than international media in parliamentary debates). Furthermore, European parliaments address the issue of sexual violence in Burundi and the DRC. In fact, the presence of this topic is especially relevant in the discussions that take place in the House of Commons regarding the post-conflict situation of the DRC. International media, rather than African media, seems to contribute significantly towards the introduction of this topic in the parliamentary agenda.
The main objective of the dissemination work package was to ensure all INFOCORE results, objectives, and outcomes were disseminated efficiently to the relevant users and stakeholders, in a fashion well-tailored to their respective needs. To achieve this objective, INFOCORE has secured the participation of key organizations within each of the most important stakeholder groups: policymakers, academia, media, media assistance/peacebuilding NGOs.
These associated stakeholders have provided detailed information and feedback about the different stakeholder groups’ dissemination needs, participated in INFOCORE’s research and quality management process to ensure the optimal relevance and usability of project outputs, and reached out to further stakeholder groups, contributing actively to disseminating INFOCORE findings.
The main sources of dissemination and exploitation of results activities were the INFOCORE website and social media presence.
The website contains pages detailing the project and its backgrounds (“About INFOCORE”) its partners (“Affiliated and Related Projects”), its associated stakeholders (“Associated Stakeholder Network”), its funding, and its main aims and objectives. In addition, the website transparently demonstrates the progress and stages of the INFOCORE project. Access to all research reports, publications, proceedings, and policy briefs is made public on the website, as far as they can be made available through open access.
The social media presence focuses more on providing pointed, reduced, and highly accessible findings and recommendations. On the Facebook and Twitter accounts, links to the background material provided on the web page can be found wherever this is appropriate, to allow interested audiences to access additional information. Thereby, the active social media strategy also serves to advertise and popularize the INFOCORE web page. The Facebook page has been followed and liked more than 300 times.
The social media page also links to external news publications relevant to the work of INFOCORE. The INFOCORE project has been featured thirteen times in different news publications, including The Huffington Post, Syria Deeply, Euronews, and New Europe.
The INFOCORE team participated in dozens of conferences, workshops, and professional events in 15 cities across 13 countries from 2014 to 2016.
INFOCORE organized stakeholders’ seminars to share findings and policy options of the research with the four main stakeholders groups: media, NGOs, policy makers, and academics. The aim of these stakeholder seminars was to shape policy debate and to test initial findings in their respective fields, providing the opportunity for stakeholders to give feedback and engage in dialogue with the researchers. INFOCORE’s first stakeholders’ seminars took place in Brussels, on October 9 and 10, 2015. In a series of presentations and seminars, researchers from the eight work packages shared findings from the first fieldwork and first analytic stages of the project.
Following this conference, similar conferences occurred with local stakeholders in the Ohrid, for the participants from the Balkans, in Gisenyi for the Great Lakes region, and the Limassol for stakeholders from Israel and Palestine. These three 2-day dissemination conferences sensitized local stakeholders to INFOCORE’s findings and provided an opportunity to test them on the ground.
The INFOCORE team presented its final conclusions to expert stakeholders and the wider public in Brussels on November 16, 2016 during the Final Dissemination Conference. This conference discussed a cogent summary of the project’s main findings and an assessment of their policy implications. Each presentation was followed by a Q&A session with stakeholders also invited to give their feedback and suggestions.
INFOCORE results were also presented at major international scientific conferences of the affected disciplines; guest lectures of INFOCORE team members at other institutions, and professional events. INFOCORE team members spoke at the International Society of Political Psychology’s conference at IDC Herzilya in July 2013, at the International Communication Associations annual conference in Seattle, WA in May 2014, and at the International Conference of the Political Communication Association (ACOP) conference in Bilbao, Spain in July 2014.
In March 2016, INFOCORE scholars presented three papers at the International Studies Association conference in Atlanta, themed "Exploring Peace.” INFOCORE was featured in two panels and six individual papers at the 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in Fukuoka, Japan in June. At the 6th European Communication Conference European Communication Research and Education Association in Prague, Czech Republic in November, INFOCORE teams presented four papers.
INFOCORE was part of a joint workshop on social media, conflict, and diversity with two affiliated projects, Media, Conflict, and Democratization (MeCoDEM) and Vox Pol, in November 2016 in Brussels. INFOCORE worked on several professional and educational workshops, such as a hosting a panel at the Summer School on Security Policy and speaking at “Media Development, Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and Counter-Propaganda: What is the problem” organized by the Global Forum for Media Development on 26 April 2016.
INFOCORE team members have integrated their results into partners’ and associated stakeholders’ own teaching activities (LMU Master’s course on Reporting Conflict, Global Governance Institute Executive course on Media and Security Governance).
In addition to these events, INFOCORE developed targeted information material including policy briefs, 24 brief guidelines on definitions, 19 working papers on the concepts, newsletters, op-eds in newspapers, and short films on broadcasting organizations suited to their respective stakeholders’ needs. The 19 concept papers include the conceptual foundations of the project’s research objectives, the main methodological strategies and materials, the results from each individual Work Package, and the project’s joint analysis. Additionally, 22 publications that emerged from the INFOCORE project were published in top academic journals from 2014 to 2017.
Affiliated related projects: http://www.infocore.eu/network-collaboration/affiliated-related-projects/
Associated stakeholder network: http://www.infocore.eu/consortium/associated-stakeholder-network
Final dissemination conference: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Deliverable_D9.6_Final_Conference_Proceedings.pdf
First stakeholders’ seminars: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/INFOCORE_Proceedings_Stakeholders_Seminars_2015.pdf
Policy briefs: http://www.infocore.eu/results/policy-briefs/
Scientific conferences: http://www.infocore.eu/results/conference-papers/
Short films on broadcasting organizations: (http://www.infocore.eu/about-infocore/infocore-in-the-media/
Social media presence: https://www.facebook.com/infocore/
Stakeholder workshop Balkans: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/D9.5_Balkans_Proceedings.pdf
Stakeholder workshop Great Lakes Region: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/D9.5_African-Great-Lakes-Region_Proceedings.pdf
Stakeholder workshop Israel and Palestine: http://www.infocore.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/D9.5_Middle-East_Proceedings.pdf
Working papers: http://www.infocore.eu/results/working-papers/
The WP1 has contributed several research-based publications about journalistic conflict news production. With the publication of theoretical framework ‘News Production: Theory and Conceptual Framework: Generic and conflict influences on the news production process’, WP1 aimed to advance theory on news production processes. The data gathered shows that the suggested theoretical framework has been adequate and is also used in other publications by other researchers as observed at least in two major international conferences (International Communication Association 2015 and 2016).
With the Methodological Framework for the Journalistic Productions, WP1 provided a methodological tool to research news production in conflicts that was rarely used before. The reconstruction interviews enable the researcher to explore the genesis of a news account through the journalist’s recollections of specific choices and considerations during the process of news production. Generating detailed “article biographies”, this technique reconstructs journalistic and editorial decisions within their very organizational and social contexts, focusing on the processes of story ideation, story narration, and story presentation. The developed methodology is useful for researchers who wish to go beyond existing research in the study of conflict news. It enables researchers to understand the origins of news accounts and the reasoning for essential decisions in the editorial process – such as the selection of story angles, sources and ways of presentation in conflict news – the strategy reveals the intricate interplay of influences and constraints shaping journalistic practice and shaping their coverage of violent conflict.
WP1 prepared a publication for the ‘Media, War and Conflict’ special edition that focuses on ‘How the news comes into being: Researching conflict news production through retrospective reconstruction interviews’. The analysis specifically focused on story ideation, story narration, and story presentation in the context of coverage about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the civil war in Syria, as well as about Kosovo, Macedonia, Burundi, and the DRC. The study found that when invited to speak about their jobs, many conflict journalists cling to a professional narrative suggesting that they are reporting “just the facts” and that it is the “reality” that tells the story. The findings also show, however, that journalists deliver an intellectual reconstruction of “reality” by actualizing the factual evidence that speaks best to the central narrative of a story and that best “exemplifies” what they think has “really” happened. Furthermore, journalists’ habitus of routinely digesting social media and leading news outlets explains why conflict coverage is often so self-referential. This publication is aimed to share the methodological notes with peers, journalists and professionals in the field.
The second paper focuses on ‘The story comes first: reconstructing “reality” through telling stories’. WP1found evidence in support of our initial expectations, that is, that journalists develop a story narrative early on in the process of news constructions and selectively fit facts and sources to support the key story narrative. This goes clearly against conventional wisdom and the professional narrative of news production. At the same time, these results do not suggest that journalists manipulate media reality. Rather, the findings speak to the fact that conflict news is, like many other genres of text production, is a business of storytelling. This paper is in the developing stage.
A third publication aims to look at the ‘Enemies, Friends, Interests and Interactions between journalists from different sides of a conflict’. It investigates the pattern of collaboration among journalists across conflict lines. The paper focuses on collaboration in news production and usage of sources from the one side to the other side of conflict to make the news for journalists at home.
The WP1 also delivered an advanced research seminar at the LMU based on the research framework of the Journalistic Production work package. The purpose of course ‘Reporting Conflict: Journalists covering war and violence’ was to reconstruct conflict coverage, its contexts and conditions, and the way news stories about war and conflict come into being. Four conflicts have been studied as part of the course: the civil war in Syria, the enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ethnic violence in Burundi and the DRC, as well as the rupture of former Yugoslavia.
The main dissemination and exploitation activities of WP1 are listed in table A1 ”List of scientific publications” A2 “List of dissemination activities” of this final report.
The goal of this work package was to explore the ongoing interactions between political leaders involved in violent conflicts and the many different types of media. The potential impact of this work package will hopefully be felt in both the academic world and on policy makers. Starting with the academic aspect of the project the wealth of data produced by the research has findings that should be of special interest to researchers involved in political science, communication, international relations, and conflict studies. The policy makers that should find these results of interest would include political leaders, civil servants working in areas having to do with conflict, policy makers in the field of communication, and NGO leaders who are involved in conflict resolution.
The academic impact is rooted in two aspects of this research that are somewhat unique. The first important advantage of this study is that it places a special emphasis on the changes in the role of the media in violent conflicts in the digital age. Researchers in this field are only now beginning to grapple with some of the major changes that have taken place since the advent of the Internet. The second aspect has to do with the fact that we were able to interview political leaders from so many different conflicts around the world. Such a massive amount of comparative data (especially when combined with the results from other work packages) is extremely rare in this type of research.
It is also hoped that the conclusions of this work will have at least some influence on policy makers working in the fields mentioned above. One of the more important “deliverables” of this project was a policy brief that provided a number of specific recommendations rooted in the findings. An important example has to do with the new dangers that have emerged due to the increased ability for using the Internet for the spread of hate and violence. There is an urgent need for both local and international policy makers to develop new strategies for coming up with regulations that prevent some of the greatest threats emerging without overly stifling free speech.
Together with the other work packages a great deal of effort was put into disseminating the results of the study. This included special “stakeholder” meetings in Cyprus, Macedonia, and Brussels. As better detailed in the relevant WP9 there were also a number of articles that appeared in various news media.
The main dissemination and exploitation activities of WP2 are listed in table A1 ”List of scientific publications” A2 “List of dissemination activities” of this final report.
The WP3 results are relevant for further peace building and media assistance strategies in zones of protracted and potential conflict in the following aspects: (1) they increase the knowledge about the sociological roots of the conflict: media polarization and audience polarization are congruent with wider socio-political developments – they are consequential to ethnic and/or political polarization; (2) they demonstrate that ethnocentric narratives enable polarization: in pre-conflict or post-conflict phases, where ethnic conflict is the case, support to mainstream media organizations should be provided on how to avoid ethnocentric framing; (3) they suggest that justice and fairness of reconciliation processes should be put out in an open and inclusive public debate: polarizing the parties and political manipulation is more likely if the process of reconciliation does not entail justice and fairness and if that process is not a transparent one; (4) they indicate that education of the populations at large should be a major segment of any future reconciliation or media assistance strategy: Knowledge of conflict and media, politicization of identity and socio-political polarization should be put in media literacy programmes implemented in the formal and informal education of populations at large rather than only the education of media professionals; (5) they imply that construction of integrated and inclusive editorial policy of Public Service Broadcasters and pushing for greater inclusiveness in private media should be an imperative: in the elaborated cases with double polarization (both ethnic and ideological), mixed newsrooms are more than necessary; (6) they indicate that sustainability of independent professional and media organizations in the promotion of tolerance and reconciliation should be strongly supported; (7) they suggest that the international and local actors should devise holistic strategies and should coordinate their efforts for political pressure for peace and reconciliation.
The main dissemination and exploitation activities of WP3 are listed in table A1 ”List of scientific publications” A2 “List of dissemination activities” of this final report.
The findings about the role of different types of NGOs are relevant to different types of practitioners and were disseminated through academic conference, practitioner workshops, policy briefs, an opened piece, newsletter on the INFOCORE website (see all A2) and direct engagement with practitioners. NGOs can learn from our finding about how they are being perceived by journalists and political actors and how other organisations are coping with some of the external and internal obstacles, including the tension between fundraising, management, press-relations and research functions. Our research highlights that ways in which NGOs are filling gaps left by news media organisations, but at the same time, highlight the risks in terms of narrowing perspectives on conflicts to legal and normative framing, over-reliance on the news media and problems with insufficient transparency about NGOs mandates and funding. We recommend that NGOs should become clearer about their funding, mandates, and limitations of their expertise as far as conflict analysis and policy advice is concerned. Media organisations should try to use a broader range of NGOs and providing more information about NGOs distinct perspectives and funding structures. They also need to become more cautious and explicit about some of the indirect support they accept from NGOs and invest sufficiently in creating and maintaining sufficient country expertise and technical skills for cross-checking the validity of epistemic claims (“facts”) as essential to their credibility. They should explore forging partnerships with conflict experts from outside the NGO sector.
WP4 coordinated project-wide work on improving open source intelligence for better conflict prevention, management and resolution. This was published on the project website and disseminated through various mailing lists. Our findings suggest that the content provided by domestic actors is particularly valuable as it picks up warning signs earlier than foreign coverage and thus helps to monitor and assess rising or falling tensions across different types of media in a timelier fashion. We therefore recommend organisations to invest in systems that can gather, process and analyse domestic media and NGOs as timely sources of conflict warning and indeed to recognise their role as potential actors contributing to conflict escalation or de-escalation. However, OSINT needs to adjust collection, interpretation and analysis to the conditions of each country/conflict case, providing also better and more meta-information about the sources and their biases. Moreover, OSINT cannot do without country experts and training on common errors in analytical judgements about conflict. Finally, we believe it is important to invest in public communication about the potential and limitations of OSINT, particularly in instances when it is based on social media and user-generated content.
WP4 researcher contributed to media assistance related dissemination activities when taking at the OSCE conference on journalists’ safety, media freedom and pluralism and at the Global Forum for Media Development on counter-narratives and strategic communication (see A2). The latter activities also led to WP4 providing advice to the European Parliament regarding its draft resolution on “EU Strategic Communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties”. We made comments on the draft resolution itself and provided further comments in an email sent to the rapporteur and leading drafters. We cannot be sure about our impact, but we know that some changes were made in the resolution that were in line with our recommendations, highlighting the importance of media independence in the European Neighbourhood Countries (No 26, 29), better regulating social media to address radicalisation and hate speech (No 37) and better rebutting falsehoods and fake news (No 46). Western political actors and donors should be more aware of NGOs becoming media actors in the formulation of funding requirements; they should recognise the genuine interest of NGOs to produce credible and evidence-based conflict knowledge and in their interaction with local governments become more sensitive to the increasing politicization of NGO activities in conflict contexts. Existing media assistance strategies are too narrowly concentrated on short-term effects and addressing symptoms of the problem, rather than integrating media freedom into development and foreign policy strategies.
The main dissemination and exploitation activities of WP4 are listed in table A1 ”List of scientific publications” A2 “List of dissemination activities” of this final report.
WP5 has contributed a series of working papers and publications in which a theoretical and methodological framework was introduced that can be applied in the study of social media in conflict-ridden societies. The speed and growing popularity of social media marks the online environment as a rapidly evolving and dynamic sphere, where important interactions and debate take place. At the same time, the expanding employment of social media by authoritarian regimes in order to articulate their governmental stance and influence the international public opinion, as well as the increasing use of computational propaganda and the growing diffusion of fake news among internet users, pose serious challenges for the study of social media. Investigating their role in violent conflicts in retrospective is important because it provides us with the tools to understand and interpret the use of the most popular and rapidly growing platforms for communication and information, inform the debate on the role of media in conflicts from the social media side and suggest crucial issues that need to be addressed in current or future emerging conflicts.At the same time, we can learn more about the conflict itself by monitoring the debate online and start recognizing patterns that emerge during the evolvement of the conflict and during its escalation and de-escalation phases and develop policies concerning the monitoring and regulation of social media discourse.
WP5’s researchers have participated in a series of conferences and workshops that have attracted scholars from various related disciplines as well as media professionals, NGOs representatives and policy-makers. A full list can be found below:
The main dissemination and exploitation activities of WP5 are listed in table A1 ”List of scientific publications” A2 “List of dissemination activities” of this final report.
Security governance and related political actions in the field of conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building as well as the respective engagement of NGOs must include responsible, coherent and reliable public and media-related communication. Today, more than ever, this necessity also arises out of three initial frame conditions: the transformation of the media landscape, the changing nature of strategic communication in general (post factual era), and the changing nature of violent conflicts. Against this backdrop, we see the potential impact of our results so far as follows: On the basis of our findings, NGOs and political actors/entities active in the field of de-escalative strategic conflict communication can enhance their credibility and the newsworthiness of their (media-related) messages/communication, ensuring better resonance quotas in media coverage and better persuasive effects of their de-escalative efforts. This might also enhance the actual probability of the concept of so called ‘peace journalism’. On the basis of our results, we recommend to anticipate, from the outset, the dramatically changing setting of the emergence of public discourse and particularly the many new conditions under which media discourses arise today. We also recommend that political actors/entities and NGOs active in the field of conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building should improve the factual character of their communication on war and armed conflict, thereby avoiding the impression that they somehow deal with factoids. Carefulness and accuracy with respect to the provision of evidence in strategic communication and with respect to gender balance/mainstreaming are the more needed because of the very challenging ‘post factual’ circumstances we are currently experiencing world-wide. Within this context, we emphasise: To communicate an evidential yet uncertain claim while proactively admitting to uncertainty concerning this claim is considered a persuasive strength and contributes to a communicator’s general credibility. And what is even more important: To admit uncertainty also distinguishes credible information from propaganda. Propaganda usually does not admit to uncertainty. With respect to this, our results can also have a positive impact on the difficult dealing with (new forms of) propaganda: Considering our findings and implementing our recommendations can contribute to a better distinction between questionable sources’ sheer propaganda and the factual and credible information of actors who are aware of their particular responsibilities. This will not only improve respective resonance quotas in media coverage and the persuasive effects of those actors’ de-escalative efforts but also facilitate journalists’ struggle for objectivity and truthfulness in times of war and armed conflict. Finally, our gender related results could have a positive impact on the awareness among NGOs and political actors/entities for the drastic underrepresentation of women’s voices in media in general and in war and conflict coverage in particular. Our results show, that the shares of female voices in strategic communication texts of NGOs and political actors/entities are extremely low for our two African conflicts in Burundi and the DRC. NGOs and political actors/entities should consider the proactive provision of female voices and women’s perspectives in their communication material to be a contribution to fair and balanced content production –– a key prerequisite for de-escalative effects of strategic communication. In our view, EU politicians and NGOs have a special responsibility in this regard –– especially if the so-called ‘forgotten’ continent Africa is concerned.
The main dissemination and exploitation activities of WP 6 (amongst others also a “policy Brief”) are listed in table A1 ”List of scientific publications” A2 “List of dissemination activities” of this final report.
The research conducted by WP7 primarily informs practitioners, regulators, and researchers in the field of journalism. Through its investigation of both large, over time patterns, and detailed practices in the transformation of the news, it enables journalists and editors to improve their practices and reflect upon media roles and responsibilities in a more informed way. The conditions that support different kinds of media reporting can inform media support activities and media-related policies and regulation. Critically, all findings bear upon a better education for media practitioners dealing with violent conflict. To address practitioner audiences, we presented our findings at several stakeholder events organized by INFOCORE, to enter into dialogue with regulators and the legal practice dealing with media, we also participated in an academic and practitioner joint conference on media economics and media law.
The majority of WP7’s dissemination activities targeted academics, whose work lies at the heart of further advancing the state of knowledge, and who also are among the most important educators for the journalistic and other media-related professions. We presented our work both at global and European/Regional academic conferences.
Finally, besides its insights into the working of news coverage in conflict, the work done by WP7 also provides valuable input to the field of algorithmic text analysis and research, which is quickly gaining importance both in academia and in the industry. To ensure that our findings are applicable to the diverse relevant stakeholder groups, we participated in a software developer conference (FrOSCon), as well as two academic conferences with mixed audiences.
The main dissemination and exploitation activities of WP7 are listed in table A1 ”List of scientific publications” A2 “List of dissemination activities” of this final report.
Taking into account the main results obtained by WP8, we are able to confirm the key importance of media in parliamentary discussions. Among other roles, media appeared as information sources for MPs and also as instruments to support their arguments. However, media is also quoted in parliamentary debates in order to find solutions, although it is generally considered to be structurally more supportive of escalation than of peace-building. Peace journalism should be seriously promoted by public politics and a mandatory aspect of public media outlets.
However, even if the mediatization of politics has been proved, other influences should be taken into account with regard violent conflicts and politicians/MPs. Social media has emerged as a key scenario that needs to be considered when we analyse parliamentary debates on violent conflicts. This incursion in the political discussion can be understood in light of the changes experienced in the field of communications, where the rise of the Internet has triggered an increase in the number of media users and, more significantly, in the number of media producers. Social media has appeared as a new information channel for MPs but also as a new source of concern due to the wide audience that radicalizing propaganda can now reach.
Moreover, the INFOCORE project has proved that NGOs are key actors in violent conflicts. When journalists are forbidden by local authorities, local NGOs stand as the only reliable source on the ground. However, parliamentary debates are not mediated as much by the perspective and information of NGOs as would be expected. According to the results obtained by WP8, it would seem appropriate that politicians in general and MPs in particular give more time and space for NGOs to explain their points of views in the resolution and pacification of violent conflicts.
Finally, two main implications can be proposed by the results obtained fromWP8’s work. The first one is related to the necessity for MPs to read regional press from the conflict countries to broaden their perspective. The second one concerns the gender perspective, which needs to be implemented in parliamentary discussions, at least when the debates address the roles played by women in violent conflicts.
All these societal implications have been addressed in the main dissemination activities in which WP8 has taken part.
The main dissemination and exploitation activities of WP8 are listed in table A1 ”List of scientific publications” A2 “List of dissemination activities” of this final report.
Infocore has been designed and conceived with an aim to maximize impact and to disseminate its findings as widely as possible. Infocore’s main outcomes are a consolidated corpus of knowledge, resulting in policy recommendations for the EU and other countries. The project findings have the potential of shaping the daily work of a wide range of stakeholders. Its main target groups at EU and national levels could be categorized into the following: a) policy makers a b) the academic community, c) civil society organizations and d) media.
The impact of WP9 took four different forms targeting the different categories of end-users:
1) Enhanced knowledge of the information needs of the stakeholders in the field
2) Debate and discussion to ensure extensive participation from the targeted regions.
4) Wide-ranging outreach during and after the lifetime of the project
1. Enhanced Knowledge
On its solid basis of its dissemination needs analysis the project pursued a comprehensive dissemination of its research findings. The ambitious exercise of the dissemination needs analysis brought together an impressive stakeholder network that provided feedback and validation of the communication strategy throughout the lifetime of the project.
2. Engagement, Discussion, Feedback and Validation
The project actively worked to interact with stakeholders through focus group meetings and outreach seminars not only for dissemination of results, but also engaged them in further thinking about the research design of the project. It also strived to elicit their policy recommendations. By casting a wide net and ensuring wide participation from the targeted regions, including practitioners from policy-making, academia, think tanks, NGOs and media the project had an impact on facilitated discussions, feedback and validation of the research in the field. Such interactions also helped to identify future research needs.
The third category of impact is related to a set of research-informed specific policy recommendations for the national, regional and local levels on the ways that research findings should be mainstreamed in the communication strategies of the different stakeholders.
4. Wide-ranging Outreach
The fourth category of impact is related to a wide-ranging dissemination of the project’s results to the relevant stakeholders. An ambitious dissemination plan was implemented by WP9 that was designed to foster dialogue with stakeholders, and to spread and enrich the results gathered. All the members of the consortium were highly involved in ensuring the widest possible dissemination of the results of project to the target communities in Europe and the targeted regions. The experienced researchers and practitioners in the consortium additionally utilised their own established networks of contacts and channels for dissemination. The project exploited the capacity of these links and actively worked to ensure that its outcomes got great resonance during the lifetime of the project and beyond.
The main dissemination and exploitation activities of WP9 are listed in table A1 ”List of scientific publications” A2 “List of dissemination activities” of this final report.
List of Websites:
Grant agreement ID: 613308
1 January 2014
31 December 2016
€ 3 222 926,53
€ 2 499 491
Deliverables not available
Publications not available
Grant agreement ID: 613308
1 January 2014
31 December 2016
€ 3 222 926,53
€ 2 499 491
Grant agreement ID: 613308
1 January 2014
31 December 2016
€ 3 222 926,53
€ 2 499 491