Julia Egleder (2013). Peace through Peace Media? The media activities of the international missions (KFOR and UNMIK) and their contribution to peacebuilding in Kosovo from 1999 till 2008. Münster: LIT
Julia Egleder's doctoral thesis focuses on evaluating the media activities of the UN and NATO missions in Kosovo between 1999 and 2008 and their contributions to the de-escalation of the conflict and ethnic reconciliation in post-war Kosovo. The thesis is well structured and allows readers to systematically develop their empirical knowledge of the media’s role in peace processes in Kosovo in three research areas: analyses of media products, media production and media effects on consumers.
To analyze media products, the author reviewed a total of 1053 articles/programs produced by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), as well as 644 print and TV products produced by the Kosovo Force (KFOR). The coverage of inter-ethnic relations was the criterion for evaluating the selected 214 print articles, 36 radio programs and 68 TV programs of UNMIK, and 110 print articles of KFOR on the basis of the main postulates of peace journalism. While the quantitative assessment of media products aimed to answer the question of whether the media products of international missions fulfilled the main criteria of peace journalism, the qualitative part of the assessment aimed to evaluate how they fulfilled these criteria. The quantitative coding of media products was carried out on the basis of five selected characteristics of peace journalism, as well as of the topics of articles/programs. The author is aware that the lack of inter-coder reliability analysis makes the results of a quantitative assessment liable to criticism. While UNMIK was in general more successful than KFOR in producing media products with such characteristics of peace journalism as “portraying commonalities between the [conflicting] groups” (23.6% vs. 16%) and “humanization of both parties” (19.8% vs. 2.8%), both international missions failed to provide an “explanation of conflict background” (8.5% vs. 1.9%) and to “expose atrocities and cover-ups on both sides” (9.1% vs. 6.6%) through its media channels. “Examples of interethnic cooperation” were provided in almost every second analyzed article/program of UNMIK (49.1%) and KFOR (44.3%). The author's main criticism in regard to the analyzed media coverage in post-war Kosovo is a failure of international missions to shed light on the background of the war in 1998/99 and on contemporary inter-ethnic relations, as well as on making the triggers leading to the escalation of the conflict transparent to the public.
The second part of the empirical research analyses the internal processes of media production within the respective UNMIK and KFOR departments. The main research question was whether the process of media production within these departments met the requirements of an effective organizational communication process. For that end, the author conducted a total of 19 interviews with (former) staff of these departments and considered a number of background papers and documents that provided key information on internal proceedings. Evidently the two missions chose different approaches to media production and perceived their roles in the overall missions of the UN and NATO in Kosovo differently. While the (former) UN workers regarded themselves as professional journalists who simply wanted to provide the local population with unbiased information, the NATO personnel in KFOR regarded its media capabilities as “an instrument for reaching military objectives through the appeal to target audiences’ susceptibilities” (Egleder, 2012: 275). KFOR scored, however, better than UNMIK in terms of an analysis of the media landscape and target population, as well as the formulation and operationalization of the communication strategy through the production of media products and campaigns. In contrast to the UN, NATO has also conducted an impact analysis within its target population to ensure that its communication strategy serves its purposes. Due to a lack of information, it remains unclear if and to what extent this analysis was sufficient for an adjustment of the KFOR strategy. The absence of a pro-active communication strategy on the part of UNMIK was explained by a lack of trained personnel and financial resources.
Finally, making a secondary quantitative analysis of the available polling data, the author aims to answer the question of whether the local population in Kosovo that was exposed to UNMIK’s/KFOR’s media products was indeed more willing to reach out to the ethnic “other” compared to people in Kosovo, who have not been exposed to these media. The correlation between these two factors was found to be weak: “Messages transmitted through the media had only a limited effect on the formation of attitudes in an audience” (Egleder, 2012: 281). In-depth interviews with (former) UNMIK members revealed that the Kosovo-Serb population perceived UN representatives as “illegitimate intruders into Serbia’s internal affairs” and therefore never trusted UN media; the perception of UN media by the Kosovo-Albanian population gradually changed from “the reliable source of information” in 1999 to “propaganda-like” a decade later. The Kosovo-Serb population was also critical in regard to the whole NATO mission in Kosovo and also mistrusted KFOR media products. The Kosovo-Albanian population was, in contrast, consistently satisfied with the performance of KFOR from 1999 until 2008.
Answering the main research question of the thesis, Julia Egleder summarizes that the media products of the two international missions have had a modest impact on ethnic reconciliation in Kosovo. While UNMIK lacked a well formulated and organized communication strategy and was characterized by ad-hoc coverage of urgent issues, it managed to produce more articles/programs than KFOR that fulfill the requirements of peace journalism. Although KFOR media products were mainly superficial in regard to efforts for inter-ethnic reconciliation, KFOR staff operated with a well formulated strategy that fitted the overall military goals of NATO in Kosovo. Drawing on the quantitative and qualitative findings of her research, Egleder offers a number of recommendations for future UN and NATO missions in post-conflict areas and briefly revisits theoretical frameworks for further research on media products and processes.