THE COVERAGE of the peace process presents an aspect of the governance that has a continuing reality apart from the visible events. As framed by government, the promotion of peace is a comprehensive, complex and multi-faceted process. But the media track the process only through events. The emphasis on events explains the predominance of “war” and “battle” news, of bombings and ambush attacks, of failed negotiations. One reason lies in the journalistic bias for bad news and the “out-of-norm.” War, despite its increasing experience all over the world, remains a condition that is considered abnormal. Peace however is a presumed condition. There are also few peace events, apart from the signing of peace accords that can be captured easily in the news.
Can the media exert its influence in the creation of an environment more conducive to peacemaking? Because we presume its influence on public opinion, the answer must be yes. But it can only do so much.
In a sense, both government and their counterparts of the other side of the conflict become the major actors. The media need to work with “sources” in these groups to push peace-oriented news. But given their own roles in the conflict, much of the news flowing from the government even as it relates to the peace process, are not necessarily peace-oriented, especially when the military become the primary source of news or intelligence about peace-and-order in the countryside.
The nature and quality of coverage raised questions about the impact of the media on the process itself, as the media reports could be used to push the agenda of one or the other side of the negotiating table.
The Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility felt that it could provide an effort to help the press report the peace process better, with accuracy and with a sensitive understanding of the stakes involved.