The roles of mass media in crisis resolution in Nigeria

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 INTRODUCTION

As a result of their ability to reach and influence large numbers of people, the media carry immense power in shaping the course of a conflict. Although many examples of the media’s negative contribution to the escalation of violent conflicts exist, fair and accurate journalism and media circumspect is vital for the development of every nation and attainment of peace (Melon, 2002).
Media content that builds confidence and counteracts misperceptions may have a potential in both conflict prevention and transformation. Mass media often plays a key role in today’s conflict (Melon, 2002). Basically, their role can take two different and opposed forms; either the media takes an active part in the conflict and has responsibility for increased violence, or stays independent and out of the conflict, thereby contributing to the resolution of conflict and alleviation of violence. Despite the critical significance of the roles played by the media in conflict and conflict resolution, this area has been relatively neglected by both scholars and practitioners. Most existing studies focus on the often negative contributions of the media to the escalation and violence phases of conflict. Few studies deal with the actual or potential media contributions to conflict resolution and reconciliation. Indeed, the media, particularly radio and television, were instrumental in fomenting conflict and violence in places such as Rwanda and Bosnia. (GNA, August 26, 1999)
 

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Several parts of Nigeria have been plagued with communal conflict, particularly land and chieftaincy related conflicts in the past two decades or more. Some of these conflicts easily attract the attention of the whole country (Kendie, 2007). In this age and time, the media is a powerful tool that can be used to change the course of development of any country and even abate and resolve conflict but that has not been seen within the context of the Nigerian media as most conflicts in the nation, mostly on ethnic level has not felt much of the impact of the media in the resolution of the conflict.
 

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

The general objective of the study is to examine The roles of mass media in crisis resolution
 
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
 
The following research questions guided the study;

  1. What role do the media play in managing the conflict in Tuabodom?
  2. What are the perceptions of residents about the role of the media in conflict?
  3. What are some of the policy recommendations to curb this conflict?

 

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The findings of this study would be relevant to researchers and media practitioners. It will serve as a source of literature to any individual or institution for the purposes of further research on the subject or other related areas and also help media men and women to appreciate role of the media in managing conflict. The findings or outcome of this study will also be relevant to chiefs and some community residents to know how to communicate effectively and use decent languages when given the medium.

  • MAIN BODY OF THE WORK
  • The media’s role in conflict management

Conflict over the media is an important dimension of any conflict. One way to view it is like a particular arena in which actors compete to control or influence the media in various ways in order to secure or gain political influence (Wolfsfeld 1997). It is a continuous dynamic competition that involves being able to communicate to the audience (or prevent from communicating) in an attempt to promote their version of the story. For example, in order to be able to point out who is “good”, who is “bad” and thereby justify policies and actions.
Actors who compete over the media usually assume that success in controlling access automatically leads to success in the second, the cultural or framing dimension. In societies where the media is heavily controlled by the state or by other interests this is usually the result. However, as media become more independent this becomes more difficult. The relation also works in the opposite direction, the particularities and characteristics of how media functions at all levels will have important implications for how a conflict is played out between the primary parties in a conflict (Dixon, 1996).
The media plays a crucial role in a democratic system’s self-correcting mechanism, and while public information may have dramatic consequences for any democratically elected government per se, it does not threaten the political system. In a non-democratic system, the political structures and institutions are often more personally dependant on those who hold key decision-making positions. Meaning that, a threat to the credibility of those in power also implies a threat to the legitimacy of the whole political or governmental structure. External support to non-representative and non-democratic actors could have detrimental effects, or vice versa.
What constitutes news is always the result of a selection of certain facts and the overlooking of others. “The news media bring some features of ‘reality’ to our attention, placing them in the light, whereas most of the rest is kept in the dark” And it is important to remember that the accumulated glimpses, given in the reports of the international media, portray the world, as it should not be, rather than how it is. In relative terms, in-depth reporting is marginal and the number of Western foreign correspondents stationed in non-Western parts of the world is small. It is also rare that the international media reports successful conflict resolution and peace- building processes. This is partly understandable, due to time constraints and the magnitude of potential news in the world.
In most situations of rising tension, before a conflict has passed the threshold to violence, international media has little interest or use for these news stories. As Jakobsen (2011) argues, it is usually after some sort of trigger event, like “an exodus of refugees or a massacre” that is also sufficiently photogenic and dramatic, that the international media takes notice. Once international media does show interest in a conflict it is unfortunately usually when the critical preventive moment has passed.
However, several cases seemed to point towards the international media being able to pressure governments into intervene militarily. On closer examination of the cases, Western governments’ policy decisions tended to preceded international media pressure (Robinson 2002). In other words, several researchers conclude that the effect of the international media is greatly exaggerated, even if it does seem to have an influence under certain circumstances. Notably, it can have significant influence but only when a government is unsure as to which policy road to take. Furthermore, Jakobsen argues that, media generated pressures are likely to result in minimalist policies, which are primarily aimed at demonstrating to their action-demanding publics that something is being done’ so that ground deployment can be avoided. He refers to these as mere ‘gesture-politics’ but there are also numerous examples where, for example, mere international recognition of a non-state actor has had determinant consequences (Jacobson 2011).
There is a clear correlation between media coverage and funding levels in humanitarian emergencies. Unfortunately, this also results in that budgets for long term projects, in many “forgotten” conflicts, get rerouted to conflicts with high international media attention. It is also in these situations, when donors all rush to the same conflict that the most acute coordination problems arise (Wolfsfeld 1997). International media, as it works today, has a negligible or negative influence on violent conflicts in the pre- and post- violent conflict phases. Negligible effect, because in most cases internal conflicts do not get substantial media attention in these conflict phases. The negative influence, of the international media is closely related to its preference for sensationalist events and its increasingly “infotainment” orientated news reporting (Wolfsfeld 1997).
Although authorities and elites exert considerable influence over the media the international media can mobilise third party support for victims of violence and oppression. The media is often blamed for giving too much attention to political groups capable of capturing the media’s interest with spectacular behaviour. It is true that media, particularly television media and perhaps international media, depend on spectacular events in order to keep their audiences interested. As such it creates a potential venue for certain factors that may not otherwise have access to extensive media exposure, for better or for worse. International media in the violent phase of a conflict can exert positive pressure and have negative consequences. (Wolfsfeld 1997).
In one conflict that received considerable media attention, parties in the conflict repeatedly fired on themselves in order to put pressure on international decision-makers. In these circumstances, accurate reporting is essential, but often due to a lack of time and accessibility, it is difficult to verify information. One aspect that this reflects is that parties who are willing to shot at themselves for the cameras are probably also more dependent on, and vulnerable to, international media pressure. Contrary, to some of the negative effects on peace processes, with the eyes of the international media fixed on the parties in a conflict, actors may be more reluctant to break agreements (Jakobsen 2011).
They can also contribute by informing and supporting democratic values, in general and in the case of an intervention. It can play a particular role in promoting independent media and journalism based on sound journalistic principals. It is often more difficult for national media to be economically and politically  independent of the regime. Meaning that in the violent phase of a conflict it is exceedingly difficult for national media not to get sucked into the conflict. In such situations, international media could act as a temporary as an alternative to national media in conflict situations where the national media is seriously crippled. One way of doing this is, not only mediating information that would otherwise be censured, but also act as a guarantee for local journalists (Okere 1996). However, in order to do this credibly, the international media itself should be structured according to democratic principles, which is not always the case

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