PRIO Media Research Group.

How media play a key role in the strategic planning of different actors within peace and conflict

Media are important strategic channels for actors within conflict, peace, security and social processes – including governments, politicians, rebel groups, humanitarian aid organizations, and terrorists. Mass media, traditional media, digital media and ‘new media’ are platforms where actors try to harness media in their battle for winning 'hearts and minds'. But how do actors engage with their media environments? Do they see it merely as a platform? And how do media platforms affect social processes? Can media be a facilitator of change, or continuance? Of violence, or peace?

The Media research group seeks a holistic research approach that furthers critical debate on how media function as mediators, facilitators, and interpreters of conflict, crises and social dynamics, both locally and internationally. Our approach includes both traditional media (television, radio, digital and print) and 'new media' such as Facebook and Twitter. Our research includes the following themes:

1. Media as platforms for discourses

National and international media landscapes both influence and are influenced by political agendas. Media play a role in shaping identities, and they contribute to inclusionary and exclusionary processes and social change. Methods for researching media are tools that enable researchers to understand such media ‘effects’. Regarding media as platforms for discourses is useful to observe agendas and discourses, be informed about societal events and processes, and analyze the interrelations between media and social dynamics.

2. Media as agents in war, conflict and crisis

Wars, conflicts, and crises are influenced by media – whether local, national, or international. Media can be used by conflict actors to sustain conflict or sell war rationales, or by non-violent peace activists in their attempt to end war. They can contribute to making such processes visible, or even credible, to a large audience. Extensive coverage through an ever increasing number of 24-hour media networks can shape citizens' perceptions of which crises are important. Aid actors can use media to raise public pressure to 'do something' in times of crisis. Media play a role in affecting societal processes and social structures in times of war, conflict and crisis.

3. 'New media' as platforms for mobilization

'New media', as platforms that allow open participation, are increasingly used to mobilize and influence societal outcomes. Examples of such media are blogs, Wikipedia, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. What has come to be known as the Arab Spring demonstrated the power of new media, as ordinary citizens used their access to virtual social networks in protesting against authorities. The question of whether such efforts are replicable, now that governments are aware of the (perceived) power of new media, remains. Furthermore, new media can function as platforms for security policies or the establishment of a sense of post-disaster community at the grassroots level.

4. Ethical aspects of media and free speech

How should media communicate during conflict and crises? How do we balance a robust freedom of speech with ethical concerns such as truthfulness, quality, and decency? This has become a great challenge, as media reports, and the accompanying global reach of the Internet and social media, can spread all kinds of messages at great speed, often inflaming passions and sometimes laying the groundwork for or exacerbating social conflict. At the same time, it is exceedingly hard to regulate the tone and atmosphere of the media without infringing on free speech and the freedom of the press. Finding innovative and ethically sound ways to strike this balance is arguably one of the great tasks of our times.

An error has occurred. This application may no longer respond until reloaded. An unhandled exception has occurred. See browser dev tools for details. Reload 🗙