Media in Conflict Resolution

Manila Bulletin, July 31, 2016 | Go to article overview

Media in Conflict Resolution


The power of media derives from its ability to inform, educate, and entertain society. Used responsibly, such power can be harnessed in conflict resolution. Regretfully, the personal bias of owners, editors, and journalists, the crass commercialism creeping into the industry lending itself to sensationalism in reporting, the pressures from combatants (government, opposition, terrorists) and the restriction on the freedom of the press could lead to the failure of media to discharge fully its role.

There have even been instances where media was instrumental in fomenting conflict as in the resolute actions of the Hearst papers to cause American intervention in Cuba which is generally accepted as the launching pad for the march to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. In the present Philippine setting, we can see an avalanche of conflicts - in the conduct of the anti-drug campaign, in the restoration of peace and order in the communities, in the horrendous traffic mess - brought about by the need to change and the resistance to change.

The anti-drug campaign fuelled by the pre-presidency pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte and sustained by his continuing support though in a less provocative manner has garnered support from many although criticisms have been raised by human rights advocates, civil society, and ordinary citizens. The conflict centers on the perceived "extra-judicial killings" perpetrated by arresting policemen and motorcycling vigilantes. While critics do not question the effectiveness of the campaign as seen by the tens of thousands of drug pushers and users who have voluntarily surrendered, the questions in people's mind are -why do they have to be killed and why have there been no arrests of vigilantes? In this conflict situation, it is the role of media to be the sobering influence and the purveyor of truth. Graphic pictures showing the deaths and provocative headlines will only incite and not contribute to an objective analysis of the situation. Media in their reporting should have equal space for the policemen (get their side) even as it highlights the cries and pain of the deceased's relatives. In their search for the truth, media could focus on a few of the encounters and undertake a thorough investigation. …

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