Public Information & Media Development: Actors & Activities
In facilitating public information and media development for peace, a range of actors is involved. Insiders, central to these programs, include domestic government institutions and the legislative assembly, local media actors, and other local civil society groups. Meanwhile, main outsiders that support these functions include the international news media, international organizations mandated with peace operations, a range of United Nations agencies, bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, and international non-governmental organizations working on policy initiatives targeting systematic change and capacity building.
When implementing programs, supporting agencies may choose a number of formats for assistance. Technical assistance may be offered in order to erect a legal framework, allowing media to operate. Furthermore, some organizations engage in media monitoring initiatives. Many donors provide capacity building to bolster what media exists in the context. Radio, being the most broadly accessible form of media, is often central to initiatives. Finally, organizations may aid in the production of specifically targeted programs to encourage various facets of peace.
InsidersAmong domestic actors, the following play an important role in the promotion of public information and independent media:
The national government plays two major roles: establishing a legal framework for media freedom in the country and setting up a public service broadcasting system.
This entails enshrining principles of access to information and freedom of expression in a national constitution and a number of legislative texts, which have to be approved by the legislative assembly. In addition, the government is responsible for providing the necessary infrastructure for broadcast development (including ensuring its maximum geographical reach), such as a sufficient and constant electricity supply, the development of transmission systems, and access to adequate telecommunications services (including telephones and Internet). The public or private sectors can provide these services, but government must ensure that they are made accessible.1
Any domestic government also develops its own information policy. In that context, the government spokesperson and the department of information or public affairs play an important role. Their concrete denomination may vary between countries.
It is also generally recommended that all licensing processes and decisions be overseen by an independent regulatory body. This body is also in charge of hearing violations of broadcast regulations.2
Local media actors
Local civil society organizations (CSOs) are actively involved in production of media and public information initiatives, often with the aim of civic education. Community-based organizations disseminate information through radio initiatives, and CSOs use entertainment programs such as production of music and theater in order to put forth messages on important social issues.
CSOs also provide evaluation services and serve watchdog functions by "monitoring media content and ownership; providing direct advocacy on freedom of expression, journalism safety and media policy and regulation; capacity building; and helping communities to access information and make their voices heard."8 On the basis of their connections with a large range of local groups, they can also encourage inclusion of minority issues into media.9
OutsidersInternational news media is an important actor in drawing attention to a specific context. International radio outlets such as BBC World Service, Voice of America, and Radio France Internationale are widely available and play an important role in post-conflict environments.10 These outlets also provide training and internship opportunities for journalists and students.
International organizations deploying peace operations and similar missions use media in their work. This is the case with the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO), the European Union (EU), and the African Union (AU). They disseminate public information around their missions and try to involve people in the process. For instance, the primary roles of UN information initiatives in a country where a peace operation is deployed are broadly defined as "'1) to inform and facilitate international media coverage of the UN mission, and keep journalists abreast of political, military, and humanitarian developments in the mission area; 2) to disseminate information about the UN mandate, policy, and actions to the local population; and 3) to inform UN personnel internally about mission-related issues and events.'"11 When OSCE has a field mission, the organization "uses media to disseminate information on peace agreements and involve people in the electoral process."12
Specific UN agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also regularly use media in the context of their peacebuilding activities. More specifically, both UNDP and UNESCO work on "researching and supporting independent media as a component of democratic governance."13 UNHCR uses media to mitigate the problems surrounding the return of refugees.14
All major bilateral and multilateral donors are involved, such as the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), the European Union (EU), the World Bank, and the Council of Europe (COE), fund and support media projects in peacebuilding contexts.15 These donors usually work both with media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which act as implementing organizations.16
International non-governmental organizations focus their work on two main types of activities: policy work targeting systematic change and capacity building.17
NGOs working on policy, freedom of expression, and autonomy of journalists can be divided into three sub-categories:
Media interventions do not all have the same scope and may rely on different approaches, particularly depending on contextual variances. A United States Institute of Peace (USIP) report suggests dividing the interventions into three categories:
The establishment of laws to protect media and information rights is a critical step in media development. In the immediate term, this means reforming or building new laws that dictate right to information and protection from defamation, libel, sedition, invasion of privacy, hate propaganda/speech, whistle blowing, as well as regulation of print media and public broadcasting.24 In doing this, it is important to make the media aware of rights and obligations it holds, and to have a judiciary capable of enforcing legal measures.25 Also, where hate speech has been prevalently used, the government may need to erect a temporary regulatory body to handle media disputes (see Insiders),26 or, in some rare cases where media has been implicated in violence, involve transitional justice mechanisms. At this critical juncture, major donors often get involved and bring in international experts "who can advise on how to craft an internationally acceptable, locally appropriate set of media laws that create an enabling environment for free and independent media."27 In the medium to long term, parliamentary and judicial trainings on international legal standards on information and expression may also be necessary.28
Go to Human rights
A critical media feature of these legal mechanisms is the establishment of the legal framework for public service broadcasting (PSB), which may be understood as the space between state and commercial-run broadcasting programs, generally thought to be a "legislatively mandated, public run initiative whose goal is to reach a wide audience with a diverse array of perspectives, opinions and beliefs."29 PSB may receive small grants from government and advertising but it often generates income from public subscription fees and fundraising.30 Because of its nature as a neutral body, the PSB plays a significant media role in peacebuilding "by serving as a non-partisan communication channel for the peaceful exchange of views and for raising awareness on peace-making and peace-building processes."31 As such, reforming or establishing the legal mechanisms that govern PSB may often be an early step in media development.32
33 They also may help identify issues that merit further attention on the part of both local actors and the international community. A number of agencies and institutes have developed media monitoring indicators, while donors have been increasing their support to such assessments.34
It is important to note that while these indicators may prove useful as broad overviews, evaluating the media sector as a whole is a difficult undertaking, as it is both subjective and non-quantifiable. It is also important to remember that the first actors monitoring media on a daily basis are usually local human rights NGOs, which often play a crucial role in this regard, even if it is not always recognized.
Some existing international media monitoring systems
UNESCO has developed a set of media indicators to measure media development. They are divided into five principal categories: existence and upholding of legal regulations; diversity and equality in the media sector; media as a platform for democratic discourse; professional capacity-building institutions that support the legal framework and diversity of media sector; and infrastructural capacity.35 Indicators exist to represent various facets of each category. For instance, in regulatory legal frameworks, indicators appraise the legal and policy framework, the regulatory system for broadcasting, defamation laws and restrictions on journalists, and censorship.36
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has developed a tool for monitoring media "to identify societies in which media outlets are especially susceptible to abuse or may be in the early stages of manipulation."37 In this model, indicators are divided into structural factors, which react to how the media sector is established, and content factors, dealing with the information produced and disseminated by the media. Structural indicators are used to assess the three main sets of local actors engaged in producing structure: media outlets, media professionals, and government institutions concerned with media.38 Meanwhile, content indicators are used to measure tactics that may be intended to instill fear in a population, as well as those intended to create a sense in the population that conflict is inevitable.39
Freedom House publishes the annual Freedom of the Press report, which attempts to measure press freedom in 194 countries.40 Twenty-three methodology questions are divided into three broad categories, dealing with the legal, political, and economic environments for the media.41 Each country is rated in these categories, with the higher numbers indicating less freedom (0-30 designates "free"; 31-60 signifies "partly free", and above 60 equates to "not free").42
IREX produces the Media Sustainability Index (MSI), which analyzes independent media conditions in 76 countries.43 Countries are judged and scored upon five "objectives" of successful independent media:
General journalist training
The media industry may have been decimated by conflict or may have a limited history as an independent sector. As a consequence, local professionals may lack basic training. Before delving into nuanced journalism training on issues of peace and reconstruction, it may be necessary to provide training on fundamentals such as journalistic skills and editorial balance,46 as well as on the essential protocols of making a newsroom function.47 Programs may be conducted locally or include exchange visits. Seminars and regional (or international) conferences that allow participants to reflect on the role of local media are also organized.
Specific training on targeted themes of peacebuilding
In pre- and post-conflict situations, journalist training focuses on reporting conflict situations and producing peace-focused programs. A significant amount of emphasis is placed on training journalists on issues of conflict resolution, which "may make them better able to portray the complexities of conflict as well as cover key aspects of conflict more thoroughly, such as peace-building, dialogue, and so on."48 Many governmental, inter-governmental, and non-governmental agencies are engaged in this form of training, which includes "developing the competencies of journalists and managers within the media to collect and present unbiased and reliable information and providing training in conflict management."49 Hence, this form of training extends beyond basic skills, with the goal of enhancing journalists' social responsibility and their contribution to peacebuilding and the promotion of tolerance.
More targeted training is also organized to cover specific topics including, but not limited to, transitional justice, electoral processes, human rights violations, reintegration of refugees, reconciliation, and sensitivity to gender issues. (See Empowerment of underrepresented groups) This work is generally done in partnerships with NGOs involved in the specific area. For instance, the BBC World Service Trust had a partnership project with the International Center for Transitional Justice and Search for Common Ground to train media professionals in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. The project was intended to raise public awareness, understanding, and debate about the mechanisms of transitional justice.50 In addition, as elections are often prominent events in a peacebuilding process, journalists generally need specific training on election rules, how the electoral commission operates, and how voting will be conducted.51 Training is provided on how to cover human rights violations.
Training is generally provided in the country itself, but fellowships are regularly offered to prominent journalists to spend some time in media in developed countries. In addition, some agencies organize exchange visits for journalists.52
Budget support, technology equipment, and training
Local media often relies heavily on outside sources for support. Capacity building may take the form of provision of equipment and other support to enhance quality of production and extent of coverage of radio/television/newspaper output. Delivery of equipment also requires technical skills training. One key concern when providing that form of support is to increase the output and reach of local media.53
Radio initiatives are frequently used in peacebuilding contexts by international and local actors, which often work together. Radio is often the main means of disseminating information, with the largest accessible base. At the local level, community radio initiatives are often supported because they may "ensure that communities have a voice and can inform themselves. Community radio stations are low-cost, and can serve as a springboard for local community mobilization."54
Peace operations in particular use media as an avenue to "produce their own information material as part of education campaigns that are generally centered on three main themes: explanation of the mission, human rights and the election process, and more occasionally, disarmament."59 But, the main focus is to provide information on what the international organization concerned is doing in the country.
Media may be used more specifically for civic education. Community radio often plays a crucial role in that domain.60 Here, content focuses on providing citizen education on a range of topics. Voter education and information on electoral processes is one of them.61 Information on repatriation and reintegration of refugees, for example, requires a broad-based information campaign in the camps that encourages return, as well as in the regions where refugees are to be returned. In collaboration with NGOs, UNHCR has encouraged exchange visits of journalists to promote more accurate coverage of the situations and to counter fears.62 Media is also an important ally on security issues, informing ex-combatants and their families about disarmament, demobilization, and reinsertion and reintegration (DDR) programs,63 providing information around small arms and light weapons issues or landmines to foster behavioral change,64 and offering updates to populations on security situations.
International organizations, as well as international and local civil society organizations, also support media initiatives that disseminate information on peace processes, reconciliation, and justice initiatives, in particular human rights and transitional justice. Almost every component of a peacebuilding process relies on the media to help raise awareness and inform the public on the issues at stake.
Some programs intend to go further and encourage a change in attitudes and perspectives. In conflicts marked by divisive politics that have served to polarize society along ethnic lines, media can foster inter-ethnic dialogue and encourage populations to see "others" as similar to themselves. Indeed, there is a growing movement advocating for the use of media for peace. Most recently, USIP developed a Peace Media Clearinghouse that catalogues such initiatives. This type of media has often been referred to as peace journalism when it refers to news media focused on peace, or as peace media for such programs in the entertainment industry (see debate on peace journalism versus neutral news media). These programs may be categorized into four main types:
SFCG is among the NGOs that have encouraged the production of regional programs such as "Great Lakes Generation" in the African Great Lakes area. This is a program involving journalists and radio stations in the different countries of the region. Similar programs have been supported in the Balkans in the aftermath of the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Go to case study
Peace media has also increasingly used entertainment programming to help diffuse messages and support behavior changes. This includes the production of soap operas, documentaries, children's programs, popular music, street theater, and story telling, which, through their entertainment value, present difficulty issues in a manageable forum.72 SFCG has produced soap operas in most of its radios programs, which often have the highest popularity ratings. The organization has also produced popular music in Macedonia and Angola. In the latter country, a music project successfully made an association between a peace message and popular public personalities, when the most popular pop stars in Angola performed the peace song "A Paz E Que O Povo Chama" (People Are Calling for Peace). The song was broadcast on all radio stations and the compact disc was widely distributed. SFCG also promotes participatory theater in Liberia, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Macedonia. In Burundi, the association, RCN Justice & Dmocratie, has produced several theater plays to support work on transitional justice and reconciliation. Go to case study: Art & Conflict Transformation
Peace media also produce youth programs, which often involve teams of young journalists (teenagers) and target audiences of children and youth. Similarly, the series "Sesame Street" (a well-known show that targets children) has also been involved in co-productions in different peacebuilding contexts, including South Africa, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, and Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories. The methodology put in place by "Sesame Street" has resulted in the creation of entertaining programs based on locally established educational goals that are met through culturally relevant means.73
These programs have become increasingly popular. They hold high appeal to a broad range of audiences because they are more enjoyable, in particular if they are well produced. Fiction also provides a safe "space" in which sensitive problems can be addressed. The programs use local writers to translate peacebuilding concerns into local terms, which may make them easier to receive than more traditional educational programs. Thus, these initiatives now constitute an important dimension of peace media programs.
1. Article 19, Access to the Airwaves: Principles on Freedom of Expression and Broadcast Regulation (London: Article 19, 2002), 4.
2. Ibid., 9.
3. Mark Frohardt and Jonathan Temin, Use and Abuse of Media in Vulnerable Societies (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2003), 11.
4. United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Media Development Indicators: A Framework for Assessing Media Development (Paris: UNESCO, 2008), 47.
5. Bajraktari and Hsu, Developing Media in Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations.
6. UNESCO, Media Development Indicators, 46.
7. Bajraktari and Hsu, Developing Media in Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations.
8. UNESCO, Media Development Indicators, 46.
10. Frohardt and Temin, Use and Abuse of Media in Vulnerable Societies, 11.
11. Kalathil, Langlois, and Kaplan, Towards a New Model, 39.
12. Bratic and Schirch, Why and When to Use the Media, 14-15.
13. Kalathil, Langlois, and Kaplan, Towards a New Model, 38.
14. Bratic and Schirch, Why and When to Use the Media, 14-15.
15. SwissPeace, Media and Peacebuilding: Workshop Report. (Bern: SwissPeace KOFF Center for Peacebuilding, 2002), 6.
16. Kalathil, Langlois, and Kaplan, Towards a New Model, 42.
17. SwissPeace, Media and Peacebuilding, 28.
18. Bratic and Schirch, Why and When to Use the Media, 14-15.
19. United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Public Service Broadcasting: A Tool for Reconciliation and Democratization in Countries in Transition (Paris: UNESCO, 2005), 1.
20. Howard et al., The Power of the Media. http://www.gppac.org/documents/Media_book_nieuw/a_a_title.htm
21. Frohardt and Temin, Use and Abuse of Media in Vulnerable Societies, 9-10.
22. Ibid., 13.
23. Ibid., 15.
24. UNDP, Access to Information, 11.
26. Kalathil, Langlois, and Kaplan, Towards a New Model, 49.
27. Ibid., 49.
28. UNDP, Access to Information, 11.
29. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Supporting Public Service Broadcasting: Learning from Bosnia and Herzegovinas Experience (New York: UNDP, 2004), 8.
30. Ibid., 9; UNESCO, Public Service Broadcasting, 33.
31. UNDP, Supporting Public Service Broadcasting, 5.
32. Kalathil, Langlois, and Kaplan, Towards a New Model, 48.
33. DFID, Working with the Media, 10.
34. UNDP, Access to Information, 10.
35. UNESCO, Media Development Indicators, 10.
36. Ibid., 12-17.
37. Frohardt and Temin, Use and Abuse of Media in Vulnerable Societies, 3.
39. Ibid., 6.
40. Freedom House, Freedom of the Press.
41. Freedom House, Survey Methodology (Washington, DC: Freedom House, 2008), 2.
43. International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), MSI Overview.
45. International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), MSI Methodology.
46. DFID, Working with the Media, 18.
47. Kalathil, Langlois, and Kaplan, Towards a New Model, 48.
48. Ibid., 48.
49. UNDP, Access to Information, 10.
50. BBC World Service Trust, Liberia Media Training Praised by UK Foreign Secretary (July 2008).
51. Howard, Media + Elections, 12.
52. DFID, Working with the Media, 24.
53. Ibid., 18.
54. Kalathil, Langlois, and Kaplan, Towards a New Model, 48.
55. Ibid.; UNDP, Access to Information.
56. United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations,Public Information, in Handbook on United Nations Multidimensional Peacekeeping Operations (New York: United Nations, 2003), 45.
57. Kalathil, Langlois, and Kaplan, Towards a New Model, 40-41.
58. Pouligny, Peace Operations Seen from Below, 150-51.
59. Ibid., 148.
60. UNDP, Access to Information, 11.
61. Benjamin Reilly, Electoral Assistance and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: What Lessons Have Been Learned? (paper presented at the WIDER Conference on Making Peace Work, Helsinki, Norway, June 4-5, 2004), 20.
62. UNHCR, Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities, sec. 4, 14.
63. Kalathil, Langlois, and Kaplan, Towards a New Model, 20.
64. Colin Gleichmann, Michael Odenwald, Kees Steenken, and Adrian Wilkinson, Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration: A Practical Field and Classroom Guide (Frankfurt: GTZ/NODEFIC/PPC/SNDC, 2004), 41.
65. Himelfarb and Chabalowski, Media, Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding.
69. DFID, Working with the Media, 24.
70. Mary Kimani, Broadcasting Peace: Radio a Tool for Recovery: Unbiased Information Empowers Communities after Conflicts, Africa Renewal 2, no. 3 (2007): 3.
71. Bratic and Schirch, Why and When to Use the Media, 10.
72. Ibid., 19; DFID, Working with the Media, 26.
73. Shalom M. Fisch and Rosemarie T. Truglio, eds. G is for Growing: Thirty Years of Research on Children and Sesame Street (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001); Bratic, Examining Peace-Oriented Media.