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COM 200 Communication

Published : 13-Sep,2021  |  Views : 10

Question:

Essay topic With reference to the media reporting of two of the following, explain why source/media relations are considered central to our understanding of the role of the media in the democratic process:
 
1) International conflict;
 
2) Politics and political campaigning;
 
3) Environmental issues;
 
4) Non-governmental organisations.

Answer:

Introduction

The media plays a crucial role in the society as it does not only act as a watchdog for the community members but it also keeps them abreast of any developments that take place in all spheres of their lives, including at the international level. To uphold these crucial roles held by the media, societies from all over the world have enacted laws and regulations that are aimed at protecting the media houses from any interference by their respective governments. Nevertheless, the media firms are required to conduct their duties with due diligence and impartially to avoid any repercussions that may befall the communities due to false media reports or inadequate reporting. Cottle points out that the media houses are mandated to ensure that there is adequate information in the news that is produced in a professional manner and delivered on time so that the citizens can remain informed about any occurrence in their society (Cottle, 2001, 17). Therefore, the media is considered to be having a central role in the enhancement of democracy in states all over the globe. In relation to politics and political campaigns, the media plays an integral role by acting as an informant and an educator of the members of the public. Consequently, the media plays a critical role in peacebuilding, peace restoration, and making the people aware of any crisis regarding international conflicts.

The Role of the Media in Politics and Political Campaigning

There exists a tense relationship between the media and political institutions due to the divergence of these two bodies’ missions. While the political institutions are driven by a desire to ensure that they can win the attention and trust of the societal members, the media firms strive to ensure that the community members get the ideal picture of what their preferred political parties advocate for. However, the two institutions have over the years developed a symbiotic relationship that has made it possible for them to work hand in hand for the benefit of the society. In relation to politics and political campaigning, the media play some critical roles, which include being informants and being educators of the people.

The Media as an Informant

One of the central roles of the media is to inform the community members anything that would be happening in the political platforms. According to the Electoral Knowledge Network, the media must keep the citizenry abreast of all political events that take place in the society (The Electoral Knowledge Network, 2012, 1). In doing so, the media firms make the people aware of any dealings their political figures might be engaging in as well as enabling them (the people) to realize the effects of such dealings. While reporting the development of the campaigns, the media firms make the people aware of the level of political tolerance among the politicians to ensure that favorable policies are put in place in case a likelihood of political violence is noted. Since the media organizations are mandated to discharge their duties impartially, they, thus scrutinize the nature of the politics in a nation to identify any biases that might be orchestrated by the politicians. Once the citizens identify such biases, they raise they voice against it, hence, making sure that politics do not drive it (the society) towards polarization, which has the potential to lead to the destruction of property and loss of lives. The media has also been playing a leading role in informing the citizens about any scandal that may befall their government by outlining the people involved and also revealing any proceeds the schemers might have enjoyed. By doing so, the people become aware of any corrupt dealings that occur in their government and also follow up to see whether the recommended disciplinary actions – as outlined by the constitution – are met on the corrupt officials. Palmer is of the opinion that politicians and the political parties make use of the mass media as a platform for expressing their views and agendas to the societal members with the aim of winning their favor (Palmer, 2001, 6).Through investigative journalism, journalists have managed to unearth some scrupulous dealings their nation’s politicians might be involved in, hence, enabling the people to realize whether their leaders are people who cherish integrity. In some cases, investigative reporting has led to the ouster of the main political figures, which leads to the consequent fall of the corrupt governments (Coronel, n.d., 1). Democracy dictates that the citizens be made aware of the state of their government at all times, hence, affirming that media houses play a significant role as the society’s watchdog. During the 1700s, Montesquieu – a political philosopher in French – ‘raging against the secret accusations delivered by Palace courtiers to the French King, prescribed publicity as the cure for the abuse of power’ (Coronel, n.d., 4). By claiming so, Montesquieu meant that media houses have to subject the authorities to a cross-examination by the members of the public. Any discontent depicted by the societal members would be interpreted as a signal to make the politicians aware that they should rectify any mistakes they may have done before the community members express their wrath towards them (politicians). Montesquieu statement led to the recognition of the media as the ‘Fourth Estate’ – an extra arm of the government whose primary purpose is to carry out checks and balances on the government (Coronel, n.d., 4). Key political figures such as Thomas Jefferson have also praised the role of the media as an informant by claiming that it is only through the exchange of information through the press that makes the truth to prevail in any political situation. In fact, Jefferson argued that if he were to choose between having a ‘government without newspapers or newspapers without a government’, he would prefer the later (Coronel, n.d., 4). In some instances, the legislature and the judiciary of any country may be held powerless by the executive (politicians), which makes it impossible for such institutions to discharge their duties efficiently. Nevertheless, the media steps in and makes the citizenry aware of the abuse of power by those who are in charge of the public offices. At times, the media firms might organize for debates whereby the politicians are called for to put across their political agendas to the members of the public. While moderating such discussions, the journalists, analyze key issues and simplify them to make it easier for the ordinary members of the society to comprehend the most important points and, hence, make an informed decision on whether such issues would benefit the society members. It is, therefore, evident that the media houses play a crucial role of elaborating some critical matters affecting community members to enable the community members to make informed decisions while choosing their leaders.

The Media as an Educator

During the campaign period, some of the rogue politicians might try to mislead the public by giving them false information about the political process (for instance, voting) so that they (the politicians) would boost their chances of political survival. To hinder such an occurrence, the media might step in as an educator of the people to ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of the political processes. For instance, a candidate who feels that he/she is going to lose since the people do not like him/her might tell the voters that they are supposed to make a mark against the name of the candidate they do not like on the ballot paper. By doing so, the voters would end up electing the respective candidate even though it would be against their wish. Therefore, it is the role of the media to make sure that every voter understands how he/she is supposed to mark the ballot paper. One of the benefits of democracy is to ensure that the citizens get free access to the main issues affecting them, key among them being political campaigns. Since there is a need for the voters to get the appropriate information during an election period, the media organizations must dictate and emphasize on the issues that the members of the public should consider being very important (Chandrappa, 2012, 1). As a result, the media directly affects how an individual assesses a candidate before concluding whether he/she should vote for him/her. In addition, by educating the voters, the media has the potential to make them change their stands – for example, if some of them feel that they should not vote – in relation to the political stands. In most cases, the elderly people tend to be left out of the political processes because they may not be in a position to attend the political campaigns or they at times fail to understand the language used by the politicians as they woo the voters. To make sure that such segments of the population are not left behind, the media houses tend to interpret the political messages into vernacular languages, which the aged can understand with ease and, thus, ascertain that they also exercise their democratic rights. Besides, some citizens live in remote places where the politicians cannot reach during the campaign period due to several reasons such as security concerns and impassable roads. As the voting day nears, such residents might not be having enough information on the various candidates they should be voting for or their political agendas as well. However, when the media houses steps in and pass such useful information to the affected people and, therefore, enabling them to make reasonable judgments on the candidates they are to choose. Chandrappa is of the opinion that citizens turn to the media to get adequate information to make an informed decision on the political party they should support (Chandrappa, 2012, 1). He argues that most people prefer reading the newspapers as they give a comprehensive coverage of the happenings in the political arena than the televisions and the radios. Other people conduct internet searchers with an objective of getting more information on the political situation of their nation. While educating the people on the nature of politics within their state, the media also carries out a comparison of the key social and economic policies the various candidates advocate for. Such a comparison is quite important as it enables the citizens to identify the candidate who has a view of bettering their lives and, hence, support his/her political ambition. In the United States, the media analyzed President Trump’s and Clinton’s economic policies to help the Americans note the candidate who would help in improving their standards of living. For instance, the BBC News pointed out that President Trump was advocating for a reduction in the income and corporate taxes while Clinton was advocating for an increase of the same (BBC News, 2016, 1). It goes without saying that such a comparison would be one of the reasons why President Trump won the elections since the Americans had sufficient information about his economic policies, which depicts a probability of boosting their living standards.

The Role of the Media in International Conflicts

At times, nations might rise against each other, which might adversely affect the international peace. One of the leading causes of the international conflict is a nation’s invasion of another country due to disagreements that might be existing between them. Such an invasion is always deemed as a complete violation of the attacked state’s sovereignty and a total disregard for its democracy. The repercussions of international conflicts are detrimental as they not only lead to an immense destruction of property but also the loss of lives. However, the media may have a positive and a negative impact on the management and uphold of security and peace all over the world, which implies that there is a need for the journalists to look beyond their ethnic backgrounds and political affiliations while reporting (International Alert, 2012, 1). For instance, after the Rwandan genocide, the International Criminal Tribunal, found two journalists guilty of inciting ethnic hatred (Bratic, 2013, 1). An analysis of the role of the media in international conflicts reveals that the media plays various roles, which include; creating awareness among the people from all over the globe, calling for peace restoration between the warring states, and enhancing peacebuilding after conflict resolution.

Creating Awareness among the People

Since the cold war came to an end, there have been constant conflicts among states that have led to losses of livers and the displacement of others. Whenever a conflict arises between nations, the most affected people are the young children, women, and the elderly people. Puddephatt argues that, ‘in the last ten years, over two million children have died in conflicts, more than one million have been orphaned and more than six million children have been disabled or seriously injured’ (Puddephatt, 2006, 5). According to Puddephatt, the international community at times remains reluctant in trying to calm down the international conflicts, thus, the reason why there has been an increase in global conflicts related cases. Taylor argues that the public knowledge of international crisis and wars is largely dependent on the media (Taylor, 2001, 5). It is worth noting that at times, the international conflicts may arise as a result of countering terrorism in case there is enough evidence that suggests that a given nation has been promoting it (terrorism) by failing to take action against criminals who threaten the international peace or even offering support to them by providing them with finances and the equipment they might be needing to push their criminal agendas. Examples of international conflicts that have been witnessed on the globe over the last few years include; the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war, and the conflict between Kenya and Somalia. In most cases, the citizens might not be in a position to figure out the main causes of a war between their country and another nation, which implies that the media has to step to make them aware of the reasons that led to the emergence of the conflict. In such a situation, it would be important for the media houses to ensure that they can access the areas where the crisis occur to be able of giving out information that depicts the true happenings on the ground (International Federation of Journalists, 2000, 1). To ensure that the media houses can carry out this function successfully, most states have passed a law on Freedom of Information, which gives the media firms the liberty to visit an area where the crisis is occurring to give the members of the public a real picture of what is taking place. However, the respective governments are required to offer enough security to the journalists to enable them to cover the crisis with ease. In addition, the media is allowed to conduct press conferences with the government authorities to make the officials address the societal members and let them know the causes of a conflict and the measures their government is putting in place to make sure that the lives of its people and their property are protected. Nevertheless, even though the media is given some freedom, it is obligated to make sure that its interests do not override the principle of objectiveness and fairness regarding the crisis coverage (International Federation of Journalists, 2000, 1). Therefore, a journalist’s opinions, political affiliation, religious and ethnic background as well should not be factors that influence his/her reports. In case it is noted that a given media house is partial, then concerns about the credibility of its reports might be raised, which would even lead to a further escalation of the crisis.

Media as an Agent of Peace Restoration

By ensuring that they remain impartial while covering a crisis, the media houses play an active role in making sure that peace is restored between the warring nations. Rahman and Eijaz by maintaining the required ethical and professional standards, the media can lead to conflict resolution by acting as an agent of peace (Rahman&Eijaz, n.d., 239). At such a point, the reporters must be keen to ensure that their biases and prejudices do not override their intention to bring the parties engaged in a conflict together so as they can dialogue on how the matter should be brought to an end. Rahman and Eijaz are of the opinion that the media houses should not just be an avenue of providing people with information about a crisis, instead, it should also come up with ideas that assist the people to have an opinion about the occurrences. To do so, the journalists should conduct their affairs without being inclined on any side of the divide. According to Rahman and Eijaz, there have been cases whereby the media has been relying on the government to get the information that they ought to report, which has made it (the media) a perpetuator of the violence (Rahman&Eijaz, n.d., 241). Rahman and his colleague also claim that there have been instances whereby the media has been blamed for remaining silent when conflicts are occurring. Therefore, it is important for the media firms to join hands and advocate for conflict resolution for peace to be restored between countries to safeguard the lives of the citizens. Hawkins is of the opinion that journalists can influence how countries respond to conflicts even though they (the media personnel) have not been exploiting this opportunity (Rahman&Eijaz, n.d., 242). Saleem and Hanan argue that the main reason why the media should be involved in peace restoration is to reduce the political tensions that might be existing among the nations involved in a conflict, which would lead to a decline in the amount of the properties lost and the number of lives lost (Saleem&Hanan, 2014, 3). According to Saleem and Hanan, to act as agents of peace restoration, the media houses should create channels of communication between the warring nations to enable them dialogue and agree on the areas that they might be having several differences on. Additionally, the media should criticize any party that might not be willing to dialogue and, hence, blame it for the continuous escalation of the violence.

Media as an Agent of Peacebuilding

Peacebuilding is a means of conflict intervention that is aimed at preventing the eruption (or a recurrence) of violence. Through its Agenda for Peace, the United Nations argued that peace-building is an action that is implemented to boost the existence of peace and avoid a recurrence of a conflict (United Nations, n.d., 1). As mentioned before, the media houses from all over the globe must ensure that international peace is maintained at all times. To start with, the media can draw the attention of the international community towards the effects of a crisis in any nation and, hence, force the key international peace players – for instance, the United Nations – to put in place adequate measures to avoid the future occurrence of a crisis. For instance, in 2004, a New York Time’s editor wrote an article about Darfur, which acted as the main force towards the efforts put in place to save Darfur (Mohamed, n.d., 3). Pineda de Forsberg claims that ‘peace media’ – the use of media to promote peace – can be used as a means of collecting the views of the members of public, which would be used to prevent any future possibility of a conflict occurrence (Pineda de Forsberg, 2007, 1). Junne also notes that the ‘new social media provide unique op[opportunities for individuals to articulate opinion, get their voices heard, and draw public attention to issues that need to be addressed’ (Junne, 2013, 1). Besides, ‘the media can also act as a gatekeeper who sets agendas, filter issues and tries to maintain a balance of views’ (Bratic&Schirch, 2007, 9). By facilitating negotiations between the parties involved in a conflict, the media enables them to make reasonable conclusions on how conflicts can be avoided, thus, promoting peacebuilding. As noted earlier, the media can act as a bridge builder, which enables the warring parties to build a consensus on the measures they should adopt to avoid an escalation of the violence (Bajraktari&Parajon, 2007, 1). Additionally, the ‘media may need to go beyond being fact-deliverers to news analysts by providing enough and candid information to create empathy for all sides involved in a conflict’ (Practical Action, 2005, 1) adversely. By doing so, the media makes it possible for societal members to note the issues that may make them rise against each other and, thus, avoid indulging in them.

Sources and News Access

News sources are integral factors that have to be considered while reporting about international conflicts and politics. Besides, the community members have in the recent past witnessed an increase in the cases of fake news, which implies that it is paramount for a media station to gauge the credibility of its news source in order to make sure that it produces authentic news. Manning is of the opinion that ‘free’ and ‘independent’ media stations are an integral part in ensuring that there is sufficient and adequate flow of information within the society (Manning, 2000, 1). In addition, the independence of the media enables it to air unconstrained and misrepresented information.

Some of the news sources the media stations have to put into perspective while reporting about international conflicts and politics include the trade unions. Trade unions elaborate how much the economy has been hurt as a result of either conflicts or politics, thus, enabling the people to realize the state of their economy. In addition, during the electioneering period, the trade unions explain to the people the effects of the economic policies put across by the politicians. By doing so, they (trade unions) offer guidance to the people on the best candidate who would bring the economic advancement to their society. Another example of the news sources, the media firms should consider include the justice departments in the nations engaged in a conflict (Manning, 2000, 1). In such a scenario, the essence of the justice departments is to make the people aware of the constitutional stipulations that have been violated and also to make them aware of the actions that would be taken against those found guilty of committing the crimes against humanity. While covering the political campaigns, the news sources should rely on information from the political managers so as to justify that they get the right information and, therefore, affirm that the information given out about a certain candidate is true.

Conclusion

As demonstrated above, the role of the media in the society can never be underestimated. Through education programs and acting as informants also, the media enables the community members to realize the happenings in their political arena. By doing so, the media makes it easier for the people to choose their preferred candidates depending on the economic and social issues put forward by the politicians. On the other hand, the media plays an integral role in the management of international conflicts by engaging in peacebuilding missions, peace restoration programs, and creating awareness among the community members whenever violence erupts between (or among) nations. To restore peace, the media formulates channels of communication that are used by the warring nations to dialogue and, hence, reach an agreement to bring the violence to an end. However, while covering the crisis, the media must act in a professional and an ethical manner and, hence, the journalists should overlook their political and ethnic affiliations.

References

Bajraktari, Y., Parajon, C. 2007. The role of the media in conflict.United States Institute of Peace.https://www.usip.org/publications/2007/06/role-media-conflict. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

BBC News. 2016. Trump v Clinton: Comparing their economic plans. BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-37013670. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

Bratic, V. 2013. Twenty years of peacebuilding media in conflict: Strategic framework. Open Knowledge Network: University for Peace. https://www.upeace.org/OKN/working%20papers/UniversityForPeaceOKN-TwentyYearsOfPeacebuildingMediaInConflictOctober2013.pdf. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

Bratic, V., Schirch, L. 2007. Why and when to use the media for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. European Centre for Conflict Prevention.https://www.sfcg.org/articles/media_for_conflict_prevention.pdf. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

Chandrappa, K. 2012. The influence of the media in politics – campaigns and elections.International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR).Vol.3. Is.12.

Corone;, S.S. n.d.The role of the media in deepening democracy.http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan010194.pdf. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

Cottle, S. 2001. News access and source power: Paradigms and problems. Leicester University: Postgraduate Programmes in Media and Communications.

International Alert. 2012. Understanding the role of media in conflict. International Alert.http://www.international-alert.org/news/understanding-role-media-conflict. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

International Federation of Journalists. 2000. Media and conflict reporting – the Port-Harcourt Resolution (Nigeria). International Federation of Journalists.http://www.ifj.org/nc/news-single-view/backpid/207/article/media-and-conflict-reporting-the-port-harcourt-resolution-nigeria/. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

Junne, G. 2013. The role of media in conflict transformation.http://www.irenees.net/bdf_fiche-analyse-1002_en.html. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

Manning, P., 2000. News and news sources: A critical introduction. Sage.

Mohamed, H.A.A. n.d. Media and peace building in the era of globalization.Swansea University.http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/academy/content/pdf/participant-papers/2012-12-aaccd/Media_and_peace_Building_in_the_Era_of_Globalisation_-_Hyat_Mohamed.pdf. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

Palmer, J. 2001. Parliaments, PR and the news media.Leicester University: Postgraduate Programmes in Media and Communications.

Pineda de Forsberg, S. 2007. The role of the mass media through a p[peace media lens. Okumenischer Rat der Kirchen. http://www.gewaltueberwinden.org/de/news-events/nachrichten/dov-news-english/article/5732/the-role-of-the-mass-medi.html. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

Practical Action. 2005. The need for media objectivity in reporting conflict. ITDG Practical Action – EA Peace Bulletin.https://practicalaction.org/media-objectivity. (Accessed 26 September 2017)

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