The Executive Director of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), Mr Chukwuemeka B. Eze, has urged media organisations and civil societies to use the threats posed by conflicts and acts of terrorism in the West African sub-region to engage more in conflict resolution and peacebuilding activities.
“Our countries and communities are now under siege, such as has never been witnessed before! Bomb explosions targeting innocent citizens, political assassinations, armed robbery, pipeline explosions, ritual killings, kidnapping, cultism and grand corruption are making life meaningless,” he said.
The media, therefore, he said, given its powerful impact on conflict, should provide the channels for the communication of early warning signals of conflicts to communities under threat.
Mr Eze said this in a keynote address at the opening of a two-day workshop on improving media coverage and peacebuilding for selected media practitioners from West Africa in Accra last Wednesday.
It was organised by the University of Ghana School of Information and Communication Studies in collaboration with the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) and supported by the Africa Peacebuilding Network (APN).
Early warning and response
Mr Eze said good practice in conflict prevention included having strong inter-linkages and effective communication channels between early warning and early response structures, a role he said could be effectively played by the media.
“The media mostly cover conflicts, not peacebuilding. The media’s impact on the escalation of conflict is more widely recognised than their impact on peacebuilding. A common journalistic lingo says: ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’
That means violent conflict will be headline news, not news of cross-cultural dialogue and understanding. This tendency to cover conflict and violence distorts reality and leads many people to think that conflict is pervasive and peace is abnormal,” he said.
Mr Eze reminded the media that economic prosperity, cooperation and integration could only be achieved in an environment that was peaceful, stable and secure and added that regrettably, the economic potential of the sub-region was being undermined by instability and violent conflict.
He, therefore, charged the media to be conscious of its role in peacebuilding towards supporting state efforts at protecting citizens from atrocities.
The Director of LECIAD, Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, said the reach of the media had expanded beyond measure thus had increased the media’s power.
That, she said, had also increased the propensity to generate or fuel conflict through irresponsible reportage.
She reminded journalists that some reports might be true but might not serve a good purpose if disseminated and called for discretion in such situations.
The Programmes Director of the APN, Dr Cyril Obi, said the APN was committed to supporting media practitioners who served as the watchdogs of society because the media had the ability to make significant contribution to the consolidation of peace.
He urged the media to help transform society and make it more stable by positively influencing the peacebuilding processes.
Writer’s email: [email protected] com.gh