Media can influence on course of any conflict

Media can influence on course of any conflict

Ireland, Dublin, September 22 / Trend E.Ostapenko /

The role of media in covering conflicts, the balance between professional ambitions and the civic responsibilities of journalists, their influence on conflict resolution were among the issues discussed by the participants of "Media and Conflict" conference that was recently  held in the capital of Ireland.

"Integrity and objectivity can be difficult to maintain once opinions are formed and the lines between victim and aggressor are blurred," Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said at the conference.

Citing the words of the Irish renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw, the minister said: "The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it".

Good journalism is therefore difficult work, he said, even more so when reporting violent conflict. Yet, this is when good journalism is most fundamentally important, Martin added.

Foreign editor of the Irish Times, Denis Stauton, said at the conference that accuracy, thoroughness and impartiality is paramount in the coverage of conflicts.

People who are held hostage to conflict must be the main focus of news reporting, agreed all the participants. The actions of politicians should not dominate the reports about people that have been left homeless or forced to live in horrible conditions because of conflict.

Inciting hatred in the press from both sides can affect negatively on conflict resolution and tension should not be aggravated by media, the participants supposed.

"The media cannot influence people on what to think, but they can push them towards what to think about", Vincent Durac, a researcher and lecturer in Middle East conflict resolution said.

An idea was also sounded that it is better to avoid extensive reporting on details of negotiations as it can hinder and interrupt the process.

"In complex negotiations which require painful compromises, daylight and publicity can be so destructive as to prevent progress at all," Martin said.

He used Northern Ireland resolution as an example. When people know they are going to be asked to make sacrifices, they have a tendency often not to believe their own leaders' reassurances, but instead to believe the assurances they hear the other side's leaders giving to their people, he said.

"It is no accident that many of the breakthroughs in this process have been the result of completely secret discussions," Martin said.

The Republic of Ireland won independence from Great Britain after World War I while Northern Ireland remained a part of the United Kingdom. The territory became the subject of dispute  between the central British authorities and local right-wing Catholic and nationalist organizations which aimed for a united Ireland. The conflict remains partly unresolved up, although its formal end came in 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, providing the establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the transfer of certain state functions by London to Belfast.

The conference also touched upon the theme of threats to journalists working in conflict zones and hot spots.

Attacks on journalists are an intolerable affront to the rule of law, minister sadi and promised to place freedom of the media at the center of Irish OSCE Chairmanship in 2012.

"I hope to make progress on strengthening and updating commitments already undertaken by the OSCE and I would like to explore possible new mechanisms to ensure the media are free to operate without hindrance in all OSCE countries," he said. 

Martin went on to talk about the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, the aim of which is to assist and promote more and better quality media coverage of development issues in the Irish media. The fund was named in honor of a deceased Irish cameraman.

The fund was established in 2005, the year after 36-year-old Cumbers, who worked in Saudi Arabia for the BBC, was killed in an armed attack in Riyadh.

"The Fund is a fitting tribute to all journalists who work in a challenging environment to ensure that news is reported, even from the most hostile of environments", the minister said.

Talking about the nature of a conflict, minister Martin expressed solidarity of Senator George Mitchell's words which is now US special envoy to the Middle East . Minister cited: "All conflicts made by man can be resolved by man".

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