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War vectors or actors of peace?

Combining reflection on the role of the media in conflict and peace processes with case studies from the recent experience of nine countries in Central Africa is the ambitious bet successfully taken up by the GRIP (Research Group and information on peace and security, Brussels) and IPP (Panos Paris Institute) in Central Africa – Media and Conflict. War vectors or actors of peace under the direction of Marie-Soleil Frère (Editions Complexe, 2005).

Structured in three parts, this book proposes numerous avenues of reflection on the media, instruments of destructive strategies or, on the contrary, constructive, which go well beyond the African framework. The first part, written by Canadian journalist Ross Haward, provides an overview of founding concepts and documents that have guided attempts at systematization and modeling around the role of the media in conflicts and processes since the early 1990s. peace. This part echoes the debate on the possible compatibility between professional journalism and peace journalism, which is still current.

In the second part, two researchers, Pamphile Sebahara and Marie-Soleil Frère, present a brief analysis of conflictuality in countries such as Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, and a description of the positioning of the local media through the troubled course of these different states. The third part is a reflection of the journalist Jean-Paul Marthoz on how the media of the North cover the crises of the African continent. Several mechanisms for the selection and processing of world information in the context of an illusory globalization of information, which is in reality only that of multiple shadow areas are brought up to date.

The oscillation of the Western press between indifference and emphasis on “negative events”; the need to stick to a story line (an interpretation framework – ethnic war, ancestral traditions – in which to insert scattered and complex elements) by simplifying the stakes or the emotional surge of “humanitarian porn” (R. Debray) … provide elements for reflection on the North’s media, vectors of war.

The originality and the extraordinary usefulness of this work for any actor of the civil society not only to understand the existing drifts of the media system (denounced otherwise with great success), but also to give means of action on and with the media which can also be considered as partners in the construction and / or consolidation of peace, reside in its force of proposal. Far from merely making a black diagnosis of the couple of media and conflicts, particularly in the treatment of the African continent, GRIP and IPP researchers, drawing on positive initiatives, strongly demonstrate that Africa, also the world as a whole, could be covered differently.

They also demonstrate that there is no incompatibility between the freedom of the journalist i.e. his impartiality in dealing with a conflict and his contribution to the management of that conflict. And that in the global context of “criminalization” of political action, “the media can constitute a final place of expression and visibility for forgotten social actors, for the silent and silent civilian victims of the wars of the continent, but also for alternative actions to manage collective life “.

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