Contributions by the Media to Crisis Prevention and Conflict Settlement
The media neither
start wars, nor can they end them. Communicating media can however have
an increasingly positive influence on processes of social communication
and societal change. The influence of the media is always multi-causal
and long-lasting. In terms of crisis prevention and the treatment of conflicts,
media influence requires institutional backing in the form of a controversial
public presence, the opportunity for variety and pluralism, media rights
as a condition of the rule of law and journalistic ethics codices as a
regulating factor for responsible activities on an individual level.
When dealing with projects to do with media work on crisis prevention
and the treatment of conflicts, the following problems and dilemmas must
be recognized: (1) the relationship between violence and cultural autonomy,
(2) the relationship between inside and outside, (3) the relationship
between social learning and technological intervention, (4) the relationship
between NGOs and the state and government and (5) the relationship between
getting involved and staying clear.
As part of what was known as development communication, the discussions
in the 1970s and 1980s provide a good starting point for new tasks. The
old approach of social work through media should be revitalized and thought
through anew along the lines of the prevention of violence by media. New
forms of media should be placed alongside radio and video as suitable
for the prevention of violence.
In order to be successful, but also so as to bring to the forefront a
necessary new political moral stance in development cooperation, it is
recommended that a new social network with interested NGOs be founded
and have these committed to the following four formal project principles:
(1) An orientation towards the needs of the target group has overriding
priority. (2) Intensive cooperation and coordination on a local basis
with all other projects (especially from other countries and "competing"
sponsors) is welcome and necessary. (3) Each project must be professionally
evaluated by outside observers (before, during, after). (4) Transparency
with regard to project financing, the political clients and the project
goals should be as great as possible. Although principles such as these
are unspecific for media projects in the field of crisis prevention and
conflict treatment, but in this area in particular there ought to be harmony
between the goal and the means: the means are the end.
Furthermore, because they have rarely been undertaken, because they are
designed to last, because they form part of the infrastructure rather
than being a form of first aid and because they are easier to organize
(at an early stage) than media projects during or after a war/conflict,
making one's mark with media projects in the preventative field is actually
recommended. Preventive projects are at a disadvantage in terms of methodology
in that one can never really ascertain in hindsight whether they prevented
a conflict worsening; they do however have the advantage that one operates
in advance of a manifest conflict, in other words can do much less wrong
than in the hustle and bustle and dynamics of a manifest conflict or under
the extremely difficult conditions of a post-conflict situation.
On the author:
Jörg Becker (b. 1946), Honorary Professor for Political Science at
Marburg University, Germany, Visiting Professor for Political Science at
Innsbruck University, Austria, and Managing Director of the KomTech-Institute
for Communication and Technology Research in Solingen, Germany; www.komtech.org.
Recent publications: (ed.) Türkische Medienkultur in Deutschland. 3
Vls., Loccum: Protestant Academy of Loccum 2000-2003; (ed.) Medien zwischen
Krieg und Frieden, Baden-Baden: Nomos 2002; Information und Gesellschaft,
Wien: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Springer 2002; Conflict and Communication,
New Delhi: Concept 2004.
Address: Kom Tech. Institut für Kommunikations- und Technologieforschung,
Augustastr. 18, D 42655 Solingen, Germany; eMail: email@example.com