conflict & communication online, Vol. 3, No. 1 & 2, 2004
ISSN 1618-0747




Jörg Becker
Contributions by the Media to Crisis Prevention and Conflict Settlement

The media neither start wars, nor can they end them. Communicating media can however have an increasingly positive influence on processes of social communication and societal change. The influence of the media is always multi-causal and long-lasting. In terms of crisis prevention and the treatment of conflicts, media influence requires institutional backing in the form of a controversial public presence, the opportunity for variety and pluralism, media rights as a condition of the rule of law and journalistic ethics codices as a regulating factor for responsible activities on an individual level.
When dealing with projects to do with media work on crisis prevention and the treatment of conflicts, the following problems and dilemmas must be recognized: (1) the relationship between violence and cultural autonomy, (2) the relationship between inside and outside, (3) the relationship between social learning and technological intervention, (4) the relationship between NGOs and the state and government and (5) the relationship between getting involved and staying clear.
As part of what was known as development communication, the discussions in the 1970s and 1980s provide a good starting point for new tasks. The old approach of social work through media should be revitalized and thought through anew along the lines of the prevention of violence by media. New forms of media should be placed alongside radio and video as suitable for the prevention of violence.
In order to be successful, but also so as to bring to the forefront a necessary new political moral stance in development cooperation, it is recommended that a new social network with interested NGOs be founded and have these committed to the following four formal project principles: (1) An orientation towards the needs of the target group has overriding priority. (2) Intensive cooperation and coordination on a local basis with all other projects (especially from other countries and "competing" sponsors) is welcome and necessary. (3) Each project must be professionally evaluated by outside observers (before, during, after). (4) Transparency with regard to project financing, the political clients and the project goals should be as great as possible. Although principles such as these are unspecific for media projects in the field of crisis prevention and conflict treatment, but in this area in particular there ought to be harmony between the goal and the means: the means are the end.
Furthermore, because they have rarely been undertaken, because they are designed to last, because they form part of the infrastructure rather than being a form of first aid and because they are easier to organize (at an early stage) than media projects during or after a war/conflict, making one's mark with media projects in the preventative field is actually recommended. Preventive projects are at a disadvantage in terms of methodology in that one can never really ascertain in hindsight whether they prevented a conflict worsening; they do however have the advantage that one operates in advance of a manifest conflict, in other words can do much less wrong than in the hustle and bustle and dynamics of a manifest conflict or under the extremely difficult conditions of a post-conflict situation.


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On the author: Jörg Becker (b. 1946), Honorary Professor for Political Science at Marburg University, Germany, Visiting Professor for Political Science at Innsbruck University, Austria, and Managing Director of the KomTech-Institute for Communication and Technology Research in Solingen, Germany; Recent publications: (ed.) Türkische Medienkultur in Deutschland. 3 Vls., Loccum: Protestant Academy of Loccum 2000-2003; (ed.) Medien zwischen Krieg und Frieden, Baden-Baden: Nomos 2002; Information und Gesellschaft, Wien: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Springer 2002; Conflict and Communication, New Delhi: Concept 2004.

Address: Kom Tech. Institut für Kommunikations- und Technologieforschung, Augustastr. 18, D – 42655 Solingen, Germany; eMail: