4: Preventing Genocide: the International Architecture of
Media and Humanitarian Intervention
Africa Regional Director, Internews – early intervention
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General Dallaire: So it’s
really interesting to see this instrument of a counter attack
in an operation. Next is Mark, Frohardt, I’m not sure
if I pronounced that well, from African Regional Director
Internews, another agency that we found very, very positive
in the field.
Mark Frohardt: Thank you
very much. And thank you for this invitation to speak today.
The reason I was asked to speak today was because of a paper
that was published by USIP on the Use and Abuse of Media in
Vulnerable Societies, and last night Frank commented on how
much we’d packed into that paper, and I’d forgotten
just how much until I tried to bring down into about 10 minutes
any concise thoughts. I think I have managed to do it,
but I’m sure I’ll be told if I haven’t.
Just as media organization such as Hirondelle
Foundation, and Panose (?), conflict resolution organizations,
such as Search for Common Ground to use media in their programs.
Internews often works with journalists, and other media professionals
covering conflict within their own communities. This
has led us all to develop specialized strategies for addressing
situations of conflict, or situations where conflict seems
imminent. However, changing the way the media report
on current affairs, becomes increasingly difficult the closer
a society comes to conflict. In many situations, media
assistance programs are simply prohibited by military or political
authorities, as they themselves have a vested interest in
manipulating the media. When we started looking at ways
to determine how and where that we could intervene earlier,
we found the various methodologies by different organizations
for identifying societies in which violence conflict is likely
to occur, and substantial research into the root causes of
conflict. What we didn’t find, was any significant
reference to the use of media in influencing a society toward
or away from conflict, and this is where our research began.
We started looking for indicators that were based on the evaluation
of local media that identified societies in which the media
was vulnerable to manipulation, particularly in the use of
mobilizing sectors of a population to violent conflict.
We entered these indicators also to inform us as to the type
of intervention that was required to strengthen local media
in order to resist that manipulation.
Our research resulted in a framework consisting
of two categories of indicators: those concerning media structure,
the way that the media sector is set up. This includes
journalist competence, media variety and plurality, and the
media’s legal environment, and indicators dealing with
media content. And these are the indicators, which examine
the programming that media outlets produce. The two
categories that we found most significant there: one is to
content, which instills fear. The other creates a sense that
conflict is inevitable. And Rwanda is a case study in
all of these. But I won’t go into any of the detail
This led us to three types of interventions:
structural intervention, which starts before the abuse of
the media is really evident. Content specific intervention,
which can start earlier, but usually targets the manipulation
of the media in it’s earlier stages, and aggressive
intervention, which we’ve heard a lot about especially
with regard to Rwanda, the recommendations for radio jamming.
I’m going to focus this afternoon
specifically on the structural intervention, because I feel
this is the most important, and ultimately the most beneficial.
The most effective strategy for strengthening a professional
media sector and protecting it’s content from biased
influence is through reforms and media structure. Structural
reforms have many advantages over interventions that target
only content. If they’re carried out early enough,
they can prevent media abuse from taking place at all.
Structural reforms can also go a long way toward obviating
future attempts to manipulate the media during periods of
social stress. Once in place, these reforms are no longer
dependent on foreign assistance, and this is a very important
point. So they tend to maintain legitimacy, and they
build popular support.
I’m going to mention just very briefly
seven types of the structural interventions, just to give
you some sense of the comprehensive nature as it is really
of any type of this kind of intervention to really be able
to do something at a structural level. And the point
here is that it is not any one of these interventions, but
the more of them that can be implemented, the better chance
that they will be successful.
The first is strengthening independent
media. This strengthening is often the product of media
plurality, financial viability and longevity, all of which
make using media to incite violence increasingly difficulty.
Plurality creates strength in numbers, with a variety of diverse,
independent outlets in place if one or several are co-opted,
the results are mitigated. Through media expansion and
diversification, hate media can be marginalized as it is,
for example, in the United States. Longevity contributes
to the strength of independent media, because the longer outlets
are in place, the more ingrained in society they become, and
the more likely that people will make a large outcry if they
are shut down, or abused or manipulated.
The next is, finally, is independent outlets
also must be financially viable enterprises. When journalists
lack the requisite resources to do their job, they are more
susceptible to co-optation and corruption.
Next is developing journalist competence.
The principle method for enhancing human resources is through
training, often through peer-to-peer to training conducted
by journalists, producers, editors and managers. Investigative
journalism is critical to blocking efforts to incite conflict,
and debunk the inflammatory myths and stereotypes propagated
in media. Journalists trained in investigative journalism
are more likely to investigate and report on those who are
attempting to abuse the media, and to expose their intentions,
which can deter or thwart their efforts.
The next is working with the legislature
and the judiciary, or government institutions affecting the
media. Particular attention should be paid to the legislature,
because of it’s capacity to make and modify law.
In many societies susceptible to media abuse, legislation
necessary to prosecute media abuse, including legislation
that protects independent or private media outlets, and legislation
that addresses hateful or antagonistic media content, such
as slander and libel is absent, ineffective or poorly designed.
Once the necessary media legislation is in place, it is equally
important that the judiciary has the capacity to enforce laws.
Among the recommendations of the organization Article 19,
following the Rwandan genocide was that the government should
seek to strengthen the judiciary to ensure that the necessary
steps can be taken within the domestic legal system to prevent
the broadcasting to incitement to violence.
Next is promoting diversity in the journalist
core and in media ownership, and this one is not easy, but
it can be done. One strategy for promoting diversity
among journalists is to impress upon the management and ownership
of media outlets how they can benefit commercially from diversity.
The increased listenership, increased advertising revenues.
Promoting diversity in the media ownership is even more complex,
but one route is through bilateral aid, particularly aid channelled
from development banks through national financial institutions
intended for developing small and middle-sized businesses.
The next is licensing and regulation of
media outlets. Starting the media outlet should not
be an overly complex, time consuming bureaucratic task, nor
should regulation be so lax that just anybody at random can
start their own radio station. International NGOs can
provide the strong impetus for establishing regulations and
provide a blueprint for how to implement such regulations.
The next is strengthening domestic and
international networks. Because journalists in vulnerable
societies are often isolated from both domestic and international
colleagues, establishing and strengthening journalist networks
can be an effective strategy for combating media abuse.
Domestically this can be accomplished through journalist associations
and unions, but also broader regional and international networks
are helpful, as they provide awareness of international standards
of professional journalism, which serve as a basis from which
journalists may feel justified beyond their own personal conviction
to resist manipulation, because they enjoy the support of
a network, and feel part of a larger community of journalists
that adhere to a common standard.
Finally, because of these networks, actors
with intent to manipulating media may be more hesitant to
do so if every time they apply pressure behind the scenes,
their actions are made public by either local or international
media. Foundation Hirondelle, Search for a Common Ground,
Panose(?), and other media organizations that work in these
situations are quite familiar at one level or another with
these various types of interventions. And I’m
going to conclude with one, which I think we think about at
times, but have had very little success in really dealing
with, because it’s normally thought to be outside of
our domain, and that is the demand side intervention.
The problem often found in societies in which media abuse
occurs, and in societies with underdeveloped media in general,
is that media consumers, everyday citizens, rarely consider
and question the source and credibility of their news.
As Alison Des Forges pointed out earlier, during the genocide,
most ordinary people saw no reason to call into question the
voice of authority that they heard through RTLM radio broadcasts.
As Rwandans had never been exposed to alternatives to state-owned
or controlled media, they had little understanding of the
bias, which is inherent in all media outlets. Increased
public education is not the only approach to enhancing awareness
of how media outlets operate. B92, the famous radio
station in Serbia, tried to create such an understanding.
As one of the managers of the station once said, “the
idea was to provoke the public to start thinking about the
information they were receiving, and this was the journalists,
who were doing this themselves. And also to encourage
people not to be passive recipients of information, but to
question everything they heard.” Ultimately if
there is little demand side public pressure on media to improve
their content and behaviour, there is little incentive for
media outlets to change.
I’ll just conclude very briefly with
just mentioning by title the four recommendations that we
came up with at the end of this, and that is that: 1) media
in vulnerable societies should be monitored, 2) there should
be a greater collaboration between media organizations and
conflict resolution organizations in exchange of information,
developing methodologies, and shared programming, and 3) media
organizations, need along with conflict resolution organizations
need to build a better case for monitoring and early intervention
to encourage appropriate donor support. This is not
going to happen at the last moment. This really is something
that is terrain needs to be prepared for this, and donors
also need to be prepared and engaged, long before these kinds
of things start. And finally, is a systematic review
of media behaviour in vulnerable societies should be conducted,
and I’ve been told that research which concludes with
a recommendation for more research is one of the last things
that one should do, but there really is a need for much more
to be done, especially to convince donors that they needed
to invest in these situations earlier. Thank you.