Mass Media

The media can play both positive and negative roles in conflict as is illustrated in these comments. Many are from Jannie Botes, a South African journalist, now at the University of Baltimore.

Why the Media is Important in Conflict

Jannie Botes says ninety percent of news is conflict; yet, journalists are not trained to recognize that or to know what to do about it.
Jannie Botes observes another reason why journalism is so important in conflict is that the media is the only way we get information about conflicts in which we are not personally involved.
Jannie Botes, a South African at the University of Baltimore, observes that media mediation takes place "a million times a day all over the world," but people don't recognize it or its importance.
Jannie Botes, of the University of Baltimore, talks about the important and often-ignored role of informal third parties in conflicts of all types, tractable and intractable. The media, he explains is one type of third party that plays a significant role, even if they do not realize it.
Jannie Botes discusses the concept of "media mediation."
Jannie Botes explains that journalists frequently escalate conflicts. This can be positive or negative, depending on the situation.
Jannie Botes says all significant conflicts get played out, in part, in the media.

How the Media Can Negatively Impact a Conflict

Jannie Botes explains that due to space constraints, journalists tend to oversimplify conflicts. This can give their audience a very inaccurate view of the situation, especially in complex intractable conflicts

Positive Influences of the Media in Conflict

Ron Fisher talks about the problem of scaling up table-oriented processes to the level of whole societies. The media is one of the few ways to do this.
Jannie Botes explains how parties use the media as a tool for empowerment for their own group and cause.
Mediator Bob Ensley noted that some people twist facts to their benefit for the press, which, if it publishes them, victimizes the other side.

Suggestions for Better Conflict Journalism

Jannie Botes says journalists do not perceive mediation to be part of their role, but they do see their role as being conflict analysts. That is how to engage them in conflict theory.
Jannie Botes says that journalists need to understand how their coverage affects conflicts, and that they are essentially parties, too, when they start covering conflicts.
Jannie Botes says that journalists need to cover conflicts and conflict resolution efforts in all their stages, not just when high-profile "events" happen.
Jannie Botes reflects on whether journalists can or should be "neutral" when reporting on humanitarian crises or atrocities.
Jannie Botes explains how it is hard for journalists to stay "neutral" when reporting on "their own" conflicts.
R. Scott Appleby, John M. Regan Jr. Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Professor of History at University of Notre Dame, argues that the media has not paid attention to the conflict resolution potential of religion.

Specific Examples

William Ury describes the role of the media in the Venezuela conflict.
William Ury discusses the lessons he has learned so far implementing a third side approach in Venezuela. The media, he says is key in both negative and positive ways.
William Ury tells how he managed to build trust with the media leaders in Venezuela got them to help him establish a "third side" approach to prevent violence in that country.
Jannie Botes observes that the media failed us after 9/11 because they were too caught up in it.
Jannie Botes, a South African now at the University of Baltimore, talks about the frustration of working as a journalist in South Africa during the apartheid era.
Jannie Botes, of the University of Baltimore, says that the Nightline show in South Africa had a major positive impact on the conflict. The same was not true with a Nightline show on Israel, however.
Pamela Aall, of the U.S. Institute of Peace, describes a South Asian conference held by the Institute, in which the media and academic communities put pressure on the Indian government to be more sensitive to Muslims in that country.
Laura Chasin describes dialogue as a local initiative that has had a far-reaching social impact.