Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

Media and Conflict Resolution: Toward Building a Relationship Model

Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

Media and Conflict Resolution: Toward Building a Relationship Model

Article excerpt


Media Role in Conflict Resolution

The progression into the twentieth century has witnessed the increase in the number of conflicts around the globe as well as the rapid advancement in the field of mass media. The conflicts either internal/intrastate or interstate can take two forms i.e. violent and non- violent. Biddle (2004) and Thompson (1989) make a distinction between two forms of conflicts i.e. high intensity conflict (HIC), which refers to wars between the states (interstate violence) and low intensity conflict (LIC), which refers to limited scale violence between regular forces and irregular forces (pp. 2-5). Manoff (1997) claims that in the last Century quite a few severe armed conflicts have been reported and during which millions people have been killed, got wounded, crippled, and mutilated....Ours is the age of "ammunition affluence" (para. 1 & 3). Moreover, since the beginning of the cold war, the internal conflicts were higher than the interstate and following the end of the war the number of violent interstate conflicts went up sharply and new conflicts are emerging at the global level (Hewitt, 2008: 21).

Media have also achieved phenomenal growth around the world, especially during the last half of the twentieth century. Advancements in the telecommunication technologies and growth of the internet and cellular communications have affected all spheres of human life. Other than developed countries of North America and Western Europe, the reach of different media, especially TV, has increased to a great extent in Africa and Asia. According to Thomas by 1999, 350 million TV sets were present in China with the increase in TV audience from 18 million in 1975 to 540 million in 1985, and to 1 billion in 1995 (Thomas, 2003: para. 9). In addition, highlighting the status of media in Arab, he maintains that since the 1980s, access to, or ownership of, a television set has grown rapidly throughout Asia and the Arab world (Thomas, 2003: para. 5).

Global trend in the 24/7 news broadcasting has re-defined the ways politics is conducted around the world. This increasing influence of media, particularly news media, has also mediated into the modes, scales, levels, and resolution of conflicts at local, regional and international levels. Larson highlights the media importance in meditation and diplomacy during the conflicts and maintains "televisions offers an interactive channel for diplomacy which is instantaneous or timely and in which journalists often assume an equal role with officials in diplomatic dialogue" (Larson, 1988: 43).

Media role in conflicts is gaining more and more significance with the passage of time. It has been evidencing since the World War II in which Hitler used media for the purpose of propaganda. Then in the 1990s media efforts helped in resolving the Yugoslavia conflict and in the recent times in 2003, U.S. used media to wage war against Iraq in its pursuit to punish Sadam Husain and trace weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In this context, Patel highlights media reporting of conflict as "with the current developments in war/violence reporting, triggered by conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Middle East and other parts. The concept of peace journalism is raising a critical debate on the way media is reporting these conflicts and its impact on conflict prevention and resolution" (Petal, 2005: 31)

The basic purpose of resolving any conflict is to minimize human loss, reduce political and ethnic tensions and bring more harmony among the adversaries at intrastate, interstate and global level. The process of conflict resolution generally includes negotiation, mediation and diplomacy in which government, conflicting parties, NGOs, affected communities, international mediators and media play a vital role. Among all the key players media enjoys a unique position because of the following reasons: (1) media is a source of information for all the key players and the world outside; (2) media can create the channels for communication if these are absent; (3) media can be manipulated by any of the key players to achieve their objectives; (4) media as a watchdog may make a stakeholder accountable by criticizing and creating awareness; (5) media can act as a central pillar in the dynamics of conflict resolution process and any player can refer toward it; (6) media can escalate or de-escalate conflict. …

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