What strategies, tool and methods work best in the development of post-war media institutions? In war-torn societies, the development of independent, pluralistic, and sustainable media is critical to fostering long-term peace and stability. This report from the United States Institute of Peace aims to provide guidance by drawing on best practices from past and present post-war media development efforts. A permanent, indigenous mechanism dedicated to monitoring media development is critical to fostering a healthy, independent media sector. It is particularly important to monitor hate speech.
An effective media strategy can mitigate post-war tensions by elevating moderate voices and dampening extremist ones. The creation of a robust media culture allows citizens to begin holding their government accountable for its actions and ensuring its commitment to democracy. A hastily conceived plan for media development, however, may reinforce divisions between warring parties or create a weak media sector that is vulnerable to exploitation. Media development efforts also fail when the public does not trust them to establish a credible source of information.
An appropriate strategy encompasses the three phases of an intervention: pre-deployment, deployment, and exit. Some of the tasks that are important in these phases include the following:
- Pre-deployment phase: mapping and strategising – The nature and extent of post-war media resources can vary widely. Practitioners should begin by creating a thorough map of the country’s existing media landscape, including an assessment of the post-war status of the media infrastructure, personnel, and the intended media market.
- Deployment phase: building and developing – Developing a mature media sector can take years, if not decades. One of the most immediate media tasks in a post-conflict environment is to create an outlet or outlets with the capacity to monitor and counter hate speech while promoting a durable peace.
- Exit phase: transitioning and sustaining – When developing media, implementers should assist new media outlets with an eye toward developing local capacity while mitigating dependency on the international community and other external entities.
Each post-conflict situation will inevitably pose unique challenges for media practitioners. However, experience has shown that some issues present themselves in almost all operations. In tailoring an appropriate model for media development in a given society, interveners should consider the following:
- The relationship that existed between the government and media outlets before and during the conflict: In some instances, this relationship may in some instance have led to or fed violence.
- The economic landscape of a country and its market potential to sustain media outlets once international donors and foundations have departed: After carefully considering all the components of the media sector, international players should calculate how best to distribute resources to enhance the prospects of that sector becoming self-sustaining.
- The presence or absence of institutional mechanisms to regulate the conduct of the media: Where no effective institutions exist, interveners should create a mechanism such as a media commission to help ensure that media outlets play by the rules.
- The timing of elections: Organising free and fair elections is usually an important milestone in the development of societies emerging from conflict. However, such elections should be organised only after free and nonpartisan media outlets have been established.
- Separation of efforts to develop local media institutions from those to develop strategic communications.