Friday, December 30, 2005

War, peace and the news media

New York University's Center for War, Peace, and the News Media has a website with links to a number of interesting projects. It describes itself as a “a non-profit, non-partisan organization supporting journalists and news organizations worldwide in their efforts to sustain an informed and engaged citizenry”. Its work includes projects on media and conflict, a global reporting network—featuring the weekly resources: Global Beat and Global Beat Syndicate—and the Mid-East/American Media Project.

One of its most interesting links is to an affiliated project, The Media Diversity Institute (MDI) based in London. It describes itself as a “charity, non-partisan organization that mobilises the power of media to lessen inter-group conflict, advance human rights – especially minority rights – and support deeper public understanding of all types of social diversity”.

MDI says that its work is based on embracing ‘otherness’- the human qualities that make groups and individuals distinct or unique. This aim is one strongly supported by SIGNIS in its publication, Media for a Culture of Peace.

MDI focuses on regions where news media have played a destructive role in exacerbating ethnic and religious conflicts and violations of human and minority rights, especially in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. MDI works with media organisations, journalists, journalism educators, NGOs and governments to prevent and reconcile conflict, promote tolerance of vulnerable groups, and stimulate balanced and non-partisan journalism.

Its primary objective is “to promote fair, accurate, in-depth, and sympathetic media coverage of diversity-related issues as an essential step toward strengthening human and minority rights and promoting understanding between different social groups. Such media coverage can play a central role in reducing irrational prejudices, avoiding the inflammation of conflict, and confronting extremist political agendas. Such media coverage can provide a critical bulwark against the escalation of ethnic, nationalist, and religious conflicts”.

MDI works mainly in societies where for decades only one party or one ethnic group or one religion has dominated. Drawing on extensive research and professional media experience, MDI works with local partner organisations to develop the most appropriate tools, training, and hands-on reporting programs to improve reporting and media diversity in each area. Cross-ethnic reporting projects, media training for minority NGO groups, reporting diversity curricula for journalism schools - these and other initiatives reflect MDI's practical approach to creating both immediate and longer-term change.

The MDI website also provides a useful database of current news stories and other resources. The resources section contains a section on diversity and religion from which you can download a guide on reporting religious issues. (There is also a report on how nuns are reported in the media). Another section deals with Peace Journalism.