Public Information & Media Development

Last Updated: December 31, 2008

This sub-section offers an overview of public information and media development in peacebuilding. To provide this analysis, five key topics are presented to encompass the range of issues that emerge. First, some definitions and international legal instruments are noted, which is followed by a review of public information and medias role in conflict and in peace. Subsequently, the main actors and the key activities they undertake are highlighted, and then an elaboration on some of the key debates and implementation challenges in this field is made. Finally, a number of case studies are suggested.
The sub-section begins by delimiting seminal definitions and international legal measures that enshrine media rights. Terms central to the sub-section are presented, as well as distinguished from one another. Relationships between concepts are also described. The rights of access to information and freedom of expression, as well as their limitations, are presented, along with a number of international and regional mechanisms meant to bolster their inclusion at the local level. 
Media and information campaigns are frequently noted for their contribution to conflict; less often cited is their assistance to peace, even though this is also a vital relationship. The sub-section proceeds by explaining these functions, providing first a theoretical and recent historical overview of medias contribution to conflict. In many ways, the news media and journalists are also at the forefront of peacebuilding initiatives because, when they function effectively, they are crucial for the safeguarding of peace and democracy. A reliable and diverse media that can express itself freely provides early warning of potential outbreaks of conflict. Media also helps alert and mobilize the international community on a particular crisis. During a peacebuilding process, it serves multiple purposes and is an important complement to almost every program pursued in different sectors. These different dimensions are presented in the sub-section.

A range of actors is involved in facilitating public information and media development for peace. The sub-section presents them and then proceeds by laying out some central activities that are supported in public information and media development for peace. These activities include: technical assistance to establish a legal framework for media; media monitoring initiatives; capacity building; radio initiatives; and production of targeted programming.
As media can play such a range of roles in war and peace, it is also laden with debate and presented with significant challenges to implementation. First, the impact of conflict itself may significantly limit the capacity of media in a post-conflict environment. Furthermore, there is contestation among experts as to the relative merits and drawbacks of a liberal media agenda in such environments. While many scholars in recent years have come to encourage peace journalism as a way to tackle conflict dynamics, others argue this erodes journalistic neutrality, and thus integrity. Tensions may also exist on the level to which support should be given, be it international, national, or community based, and how to ensure sustainability of media projects. As is the case in many peacebuilding initiatives, sequencing and timing of media interventions is also a delicate issue, as is the capacity for groups to measure the effectiveness of media programs. Finally, stakeholders must pay particular attention to gender dimensions to ensure inclusion in initiatives and access to media tools. 
In order to illustrate these realities, a number of case studies are suggested. These include the sustainable transition of Studio Ijambo to Radio Isangarino in Burundi; the use of Just Vision in Israel/Palestine to change perspectives on conflict; the use of text messaging surrounding election-related violence in Kenya; regionally based media for peace initiatives in Africas Great Lakes region and in the Balkans; the broad use of soap operas to disseminate messages of peace; and, finally, the use of user-generated citizen journalism platforms in Sri Lanka.

The news, reports, and analyses herein are selected due to there relevance to issues of peacebuilding, or their significance to policymakers and practitioners. The content prepared by HPCR International is meant to summarize main points of the current debates and does not necessarily reflect the views of HPCR International or the Program of Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. In addition, HPCR International and contributing partners are not responsible for the content of external publications and internet sites linked to this portal.