Thursday, March 1, 2012

Role of Media in Promoting Peace and Harmony

Pakistani Media is in an embryonic stage , as far as , sudden mushroom growth of TV Channels in private sector. A robust media suggests a dire need for attitudinal and behavioral changes within an individual and different segments of the society, ultimately a collective impact occur at national level. Peace Media is the use of mass communication channels and techniques to advance the peaceful resolution of violent conflict: We can divided into four different categories:
• Peace media is journalism that cares for peaceful conflict transformation.
• Peace media is social marketing that supports peace agreements.
• Peace media is entertainment education programs that promote peace.
• Peace media is the regulation of hate broadcasting

Generally Peace journalism has been developed from research that indicates that often news about conflict has a value bias toward violence. It also includes practical methods for correcting this bias by producing journalism in both the mainstream and alternative media and working with journalists, media professionals, audiences, and organizations in conflict.

This concept was proposed by Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist and the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies Other terms for this broad definition of peace journalism include conflict solution journalism, conflict sensitive journalism, constructive conflict coverage, and reporting the world.
Before arguing promotion of peace through Media or Media ventures, the values of true journalism must be the necessary ingredients of a Media person, not following any agenda journalism , rather aimed at suggesting solutions to the conflicts with nationalistic spirit. It is observed that free and critical media plays a central role in democracies by constituting the main source of information, which provides the society with knowledge and a variety of experiences. It also serves as a forum for public debate, conception and development of opinions. “The media is viewed as a source of power that influences, controls, and promotes new standards in the society and reinforces the existing ones. Media is thus one of the principal agents for societal development, democracy and good governance, and a crucial element in areas of conflict.”

So we can orchestrate that Media can be an instrument for peace and conflict management, which promotes messages and strategies that can lead to peaceful agreements and tolerant behaviour in a given society.
The role of media in conflict has increased its place in public attention. Policy makers, journalists, and social scientists all point to the central role of the press in events such as the , the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the war in Bosnia, Somalia, War in Iraq and its impacts, NATO & US-led ‘ War against Terror in Afghanistan’ “Drone Attacks in Waziristan and Adjoining areas and its resultant impacts in Pakistan, etc. Unfortunately, there are lot of governance issues with the people sitting at the helm of all affairs at Islamabad. The majority of Pakistani citizens are against the US ‘ Role’ in the region, but the successive governments are inclined or forced to inclined towards the US vested interests. When the nation stood against the repeated aggression by NATO and US forces in Pakistani bordering areas, especially bombardment at Salala Check-post then Pakistani Authorities and Army were forced to review the US –relations; as Pakistani Media , both print and electronic vociferously advocated the public aspirations. The supply lines of NATO were blocked and Shamsi Airbase was vacated. US tried her level best to pressurize Pak authorities but it failed to overcome the nerves of the Pakistani authorities , who got the over-whelming support of the people and the Media . What is the outcome of the ‘decision’ , the drone attacks are stopped and suicidal attacks are decrease to the lowest scale.
Wolfsfeld, one of the leading peace media scholars, states that it is more complex to cover peace news than war, or to suggest peace measures from a war. The drama and emotions of violent news are more profitable than peace reporting, since they attract more public attention. Still, studies and research on the role of the media in conflict are very limited compared to other conflict-related issues. An even more neglected area in this field is peace media.

The dictatorship is the jungle law in which certain elements are propped up in media , who aim at trying to promote the undemocratic traditions and distort the public opinion. So unhealthy trends disfigure the face of journalism too.
So in a true democratic system, ‘Peace Media’ can be defined as the use of "radio, television, and printed journalism, to promote peace, to disseminate truthful information or alternate viewpoints that could turn public sentiment toward peaceful resolution of conflict, or to counter hate radio'". Peace media workers are supposed to be balanced and unbiased when describing the parties involved in the conflict, but not neutral and passively observant when it comes to depicting peaceful means as the only acceptable way of resolving conflicts. Wolfsfeld holds that media in many ways can contribute to reshaping the course of events in a peaceful direction. For instance, media can stress the advantages of peace building, promote individuals and groups involved in peace initiatives, and balance the view of the actors. Often, however, media conveys the opposite type of messages to the public.

The theoretical background to understanding the power of media in shaping events is related to, among other things, how news is framed. Gitlin explains: "Media frames are persistent patterns of cognition, interpretation and presentation, of selection emphasis and exclusion, by which symbol-handlers routinely organize discourse, whether verbal or visual." Frames can thus be understood as culturally flavoured frameworks that help journalists organise information and package it for their audience.”

It is believed the interactions between the government tycoons and the news media can be shown by the way political events are framed or structured by news media in order to give meaning to events by packaging information. Media frames are thus fundamental in news coverage and undergo changes with varying conditions over time. These frames are most often analysed from a social constructivist point of view, which holds that meaning is generated through actions limited in time and space - meaning is not intrinsic to persons or events. Hence those who control a situation through their actions create or define the meaning of a particular circumstance.

Keeping in view the constructivist perspective, frames are always present when distributing information, which is particularly important in mass media. Tuchman states: "Within the realm of political communication, framing has to be defined and operationalised on the basis of this social constructivism. Mass media actively set the frames of reference that readers or viewers use to interpret and discuss public events."
Unfortunately not. Wolfsfeld notes the difficulty of the media to contribute to peace processes and suggests four possible explanations that all revolve around the contrasting characters of the peace process itself and the news.

Almost all Peace processes need survival, whereas news media require urgency that agitates emotions on all sides. This has of course the effect of counteracting peace processes, which need calmness for their nurturing. Wolfsfeld calls this relationship between peace processes and news media a ‘static model'. Many journalists, editors and others do not perceive these undesirable news values and counterproductive effects of the media from a peace building perspective. We thus see that media, despite its strong influences on the society, for a number of reasons is handicapped in the role of peace building in that the media tends to choose frames that are not compatible with the nature of peace processes. With the commercialization of Media , in Pakistan, especially electronic Media, the competition has surged manifold . Such competition also minimized the avenues of the distorted journalism on the one hand , while made the future of yellow journalism , so bleak. The movement of restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary is a joint venture of civil society and the Media..which ended in a sigh of relief by every segment of the society. The role of Media as ‘watchdog’ of performance of the government is a necessary ingredient. The appropriate coverage of the protest events with the value-added opinion formation of the public, besides practical suggestions for the sustainable solutions, is destined to become a factor of relief and peace for the whole society. The nation witnessed the restoration of CNG and provision of domestic natural gas recently when the government is bent upon the closure for one month. It is again Public cum Media ‘peace venture.’

The writer is President of Journalists For International Peace, based in Islamabad, can be reached e-mail...