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Professional solidarity against nationalism and chauvinism

RESTRUCTURING THE MEDIA IN POST-CONFLICT SOCIETIES:
FOUR PERSPECTIVES
THE EXPERIENCE OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AND NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS

A Background Paper for the UNESCO World Press Day Conference in Geneva

May 2000

Edited by Monroe E. Price
Co-director, Programme in Comparative Media Law & Policy
Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford

PART III: CONCLUSIONS AND AREAS FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION

          Each of the four case studies ends with a group of conclusions and recommendations, at least implied ones. The studies each reflect the views of their respective author. Here, some additional, more general observations might be added, tentative in nature and designed to provoke discussion. In this sense, they are to serve the main function of this project as a whole: to set the stage for further review of post-conflict media restructuring involving the international community.

Balancing the Needs of the Many Actors

There is no single overarching strategy, with respect to the media that can be prescribed for the international community in post-conflict situations.

One clear lesson from the four case studies is that a uniform approach for implementation cannot be prescribed with respect to media policies in post-conflict environments. Specific historic distinctions and peacekeeping needs will be of paramount importance in indicating priorities, and in the staging of forms of international involvement. For example, in Cambodia, the infrastructure for an indigenous media system was wholly absent, while in BiH the situation was quite the opposite. Context is paramount.
The need for management of media space is deemed most necessary by the IGOs at the inception of peace-keeping operations. Yet, it is at that precise time that attention must be paid to the potential for an enduring civil society that is self-supporting and local to the society.
Especially where the vanguard of the peacekeeping is the military, the immediate need is for a system of distribution of information, not only about recovery, but about the peacekeeping force itself. In many of the representative post-conflict zones, media are devastated, while in others the existing media may provide the best tool for the international community's message to be distributed.
At the outset of peace-keeping operations, or even before if possible, there should be an analysis of the landscape of pre-existing media structures. These structures should be assessed to determine what basis exists within them and can be strengthened and used for a free and independent sector. The purpose of establishing indigenous private media and a public service broadcasting sector should be to enhance pluralism, foster the freedom to receive and impart information, and provide the basis for a more enduring public sphere.

The potential for a free and independent media and for autonomy of a public broadcaster from state control should be, if possible, built into the negotiations leading to the cessation of conflict. Furthermore, media structure and political structure are closely intertwined. The nature of the emerging government, the extent to which it is unitary or federal, the extent to which regional differences are or should be crucial—all of these should have an effect on the media structure planning process. It is inevitable that funders of media activities will shun recipients who have a record of fostering hate speech and encouraging violence. But with that exception, the international community should be seen as [*56] financing a broad range of opinion as a mode of encouraging speech.

Donor agencies need to balance their efforts to rebuild state capacities with support for private groups and institutions. Particularly in the early period of recovery from conflict, the legitimacy of a new government may be contested by broad segments of society. To foster political reconciliation, local ownership, and indigenous capacities for recovery, the donors must bolster the constructive involvement of opposition parties and civil society actors in the political and economic life of the country.

Especially where there are severely limited local alternatives, more attention should be given to the role state-sponsored international broadcasters can play in enriching the post-conflict media environment. International broadcasters should continue to develop specific expertise for service in post-conflict zones.

The IGO's must balance short term objectives—maintenance of order, implementing a message—with long-term objectives, such as building an indigenous and professional media system that can contribute to a robust and plural civil society.

International Law and the Rule of Law

          A rule of law approach is essential to inculcate in the society as soon and as extensively as possible. This means that the IGOs themselves act in a manner that is consistent with the rule of law.

          The rule of law does not simply provide yet one more vehicle by which government can wield and abuse its awesome power. To the contrary, it establishes principles that constrain the power of government, oblige it to conduct itself according to a series of prescribed and publicly known rules. Adherence to the rule of law entails far more than the mechanical application of static legal technicalities; it involves an evolutionary search for those institutions and processes that will best facilitate authentic stability through justice.

          Throughout all planning and implementation, IGO's and NGO's should adhere to international principles of human rights and the freedom to receive and impart information.

          This objective is virtually self-evident, yet it is complex in implementation. The Rwanda study demonstrates that in implementing such a principle, there is a need to recognise, that in some instances, media that may have the trappings of independence use that status to foster and prolong conflict or encourage genocidal activity. These are the exceptional cases, though in the wake of conflict the dangers are the greatest.

          A continuing dialogue must be maintained between IGOs, NGOs and particularly press freedom groups so as a) to render the IGOs more conscious of the standards as defined by such organisations; b) to provide representatives of NGOs with some level of participation; c) to minimise public confrontations that derail achievement of commonly desired objectives.

          In Kosovo, and to some extent in all cases, there were sharp disagreements between press organisations and other NGOs and the international administration. These are to be anticipated. But in some instances, such disagreements escalated into disabling disputes leading, at times, to [*57] nintended results and reduced effectiveness in reaching shared goals.

Increasing Coordination Between IGOs and NGOs

          Coordination of activities among IGOs and between IGOs and NGOs must be improved.

          As with many other aspects of international responses to post-conflict recoveries, a variety of areas for coordination and improvement are necessary. These include: 1) planning the nature of the response; 2) mobilising resources, 3) deepening institutional reform within the bruised society; 4) harmonising aid conditions, 5)coordinating assistance locally, 6) improving the communication channels between headquarters and the field 7) enhancing recipient capacities, and 8) ensuring accountability in aid delivery and implementation.[5] Ultimately, in the media sphere, implementing addressing each of these challenges is matched with the need to build a structure consistent with international norms concerning freedom of speech.

          Efforts by the EU, the EBU, public service broadcasters and others to strengthen counterpart entities in post-conflict situations have been constructive. Affecting the media space is not an either/or between an autonomous public entity dedicated to enhancing public discourse and the significant efforts of private, local broadcasters pursuing indigenous aims.

General Conclusions

          IGOs should be careful not to exaggerate the role that media plays, independent of other forces, in promoting hate, conflict with authority and genocide in both the pre-conflict and post conflict situations. Blaming the media can open the danger of avoiding or ignoring deeper, less visible aspects of mass communication that are more significant in causing action.

          Generous promises mean little unless they can be translated promptly into accessible, flexible resources that make tangible improvements in the daily lives of long-suffering populations.[6]

          Aid flows should be transparent, allowing stakeholders to assess progress and encourage donors to meet obligations in a timely fashion. Transparency will also reduce the obvious suspicions in the area of grants to the media.[7]

          Analytical tools should be developed to conduct longitudinal evaluations of recovery assistance in media restructuring.

          If, as the Center for International Cooperation has recently suggested, a strategic facility for post-conflict situations is established, such a facility should address the media restructuring aspects of recovery assistance. Such a strategic facility should have the capacity to help fashion a tailored approach during early stages of recovery from conflict, help mobilise resources, that has a preparedness capacity, and assist in coordination between NGOs and IGOs.[8]

[*58] BIOGRAPHIES

Hervé Deguine

Hervé Deguine is a French journalist who has written extensively about the recent conflict in Rwanda, including a contribution to André Sibomana's recent book, Hope for Rwanda: Conversations with Laure Guilbert and Hervé Deguine. The book, critically acclaimed, was translated from French into English. Frequently in Rwanda, his work has been cited by such groups as the United Nations Human Rights Commission and various non-governmental organisations.

A. Lin Neumann

A. Lin Neumann is based in Bangkok as the resident advisor to the Southeast Asian Press Alliance. He is a consultant on Asian issues to the Committee to Protect Journalists. He has written widely on the press in Southeast Asia and is a former foreign correspondent in the region. The views expressed in this article are his own.

Monroe E. Price

Professor Monroe Price is the founder and co-director of Programme in Comparative Media Law & Policy at the University of Oxford. He is the Joseph and Sadie Danciger Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, of which he was the dean from 1982-1991. Professor Price currently serves as the director of the Howard M. Squadron Program in Law, Media and Society and is the founder and editor of the Communications Law in Transition Newsletter. He was a Communications Fellow at the John & Mary R. Markle Foundation and a Fellow of the Media Studies Center of the Freedom Forum in New York City.

Stacy Sullivan

Stacy Sullivan is a former Newsweek correspondent who has covered the recent conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. She writes heavily on the influences that give rise to ethnic conflict and the impact of conflict on society. She also recently drafted a piece analysing the role of non-governmental organisations in promoting international development and has been a frequent commentator on television programmes such as the "News Hour with Jim Leherer."

 

[*59] ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

          The following were of particular assistance in the preparation of this document from the Programme in Comparative Media Law, University of Oxford: Stefaan Verhulst, Dr. Beata Rozumilowicz, and Eric Blinderman. Peter Yu, deputy director of the Howard M. Squadron Program in Law, Media & Society at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, helped both with the editing and formatting of the study. Martha Mendelsohn assisted in translation and editing, and Mark Thompson reviewed the document. At UNESCO, Marcello Scarone supervised the project and furnished invaluable guidance.

[1] Jane Perlez, Kosovo's Unquenched Violence Dividing U.S. and NATO Allies, New York Times, Mar. 12, 2000, at A1.

[2] Pec is the Serbo-Croat word for the city. Albanians refer to Pec as Peja. This study uses Serbo-Croat pronunciations simply because most of the international press do so, and thus the names and places are more familiar in Serbo-Croat than they are in Albanian.

[3] Quote taken from The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, "Kosovo Journalists' Deep Suspicion of OSCE Media Controls," By Garentina, Kraja, a correspondent for Koha Ditore, ON September 6, 1999.

[4] Kosova is the Albanian pronunciation of the province and given that the vast majority of the population is Albanian, UNMIK and the OSCE now use this pronunciation.

[5] Shepard Forman et al., Recovering From Conflict: Strategy for an International Response (Center on International Cooperation, New York University 2000).

[6] Id at 51.

[7] Id at 52.

[8] Id at 57.

 

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