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Journalism in Conflict and Post-Conflict Conditions: Worldwide Perspectives

Brussels, July 6th 2016 (Ulla Carlsson/ UNESCO).- Journalism in Conflict and Post-Conflict Conditions: Worldwide Perspectives is an important book in our time of uncertainty. It adds to our knowledge base and understanding concerning the role of journalism and media in the complexities of post conflict processes and peace building – a role that is often ignored in contemporary discussions.

The aim of the book is … to provide both empirical and theoretical input to the discussions of the role of journalism and media in conflict and post-conflict situations and in the often rather muddy waters between them. Together, the contributions to this book from different parts of the world emphasize that discussions about post-conflict situations will gain from including the media. At the same time, the contributions problematize the concept of post-conflict and powerfully illustrate that the phase between war/ conflict and peace is neither unidirectional nor linear, as the use of the concept sometimes seems to imply. Now, just as 50-60 years ago, issues of peace building, democracy and development are of central importance in the social sciences. One principal issue at that time – even in media research – concerned the end of colonialism and the political, economic and social development of states that had newly won their independence. And then as now, technological advances were a prime driving force. Peace was at the forefront after World War II, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had recently been adopted by the UN. New theoretical and methodological perspectives were being developed – to a great extent as a consequence of the internationalization of research, for example, the seminal work on the role of information and journalism in society from national as well as global perspectives. Different paradigms were emerging, and the media were given a crucial role in most of them.

The research field and knowledge production are different today, in our age of globalization and digitization. The character and directions of academic inquiry are constantly changing. Old subjects evolve, their influences wax and wane, and new subjects emerge – all as a result of the many intellectual and social processes taking place on different levels: the national, regional and international. Society differs radically from that of the 1950s and 1960s when the media and communication research field developed. Our contemporary global and multicultural societies raise more complex issues than ever before. Changes in society and technology are giving rise to new knowledge that has turned some previous knowledge on its head. Yet some fundamental principles remain, such as peace that is based on human rights – particularly freedom of expression.

At present, we need to regain our sense of context and broaden our perspectives in a more holistic direction. Every day we see threats to freedom of expression – and freedom of the press: new forms of state censorship and repression, self-censorship, surveillance, monitoring and control, hate speech, gatekeeping, propaganda/disinformation, acts of terror, anti-terror laws and organized crime, and even cases of outright murder in which journalists or their sources have been targeted. These are critical issues in many countries, but especially in zones facing social, ethnic and political stress, armed conflicts or disaster situations. This issue cannot be neglected now, when the 2030 Agenda is on the global as well as the national arena - more precisely Goal 16 in the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals which is to: “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. Three specific targets under this goal are: 16.1 significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere; 16.3 promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and ensure equal access to justice for all; 16.10 ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. These three targets have a clear bearing on media and journalism – and peace – not least on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. The safety of journalists is essential to protecting all citizens’ right to reliable information and journalists’ right to provide this information without fearing for their safety. The challenges to freedom of expression – especially freedom of information – and the role of journalists in conflict zones and post-conflict processes are unique and call for empirical results, theoretical insights and analytical concepts. If we wish to address the elusive relationship between media, conflict and peace building, we need to bring together researchers from different parts of the world. From that point of view, knowledge such as that presented in this book is more important than ever.

Nordicom has a long tradition of publishing books on vital issues related to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and journalism in contexts of conflict, war and crises. These publications have often been the result of collaboration between researchers in the Nordic region and researchers in other parts of the world. Many of the books are global in nature. An effort has also been made to avoid Western ‘biases’ and normative assumptions. The present publication is an excellent example of a long-term and fruitful collaboration between researchers in the North and South – in this case between research departments in Norway, Uganda, Nepal and Colombia.

Alejandro Hernandez

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