Media and Narratives: Building Peace in Polarised Societies

In this 30-minute video, members of IFIT’s Inclusive Narratives Practice Group – Refik Hodzic, Moky Makura and Miguel Silva – draw on their extensive experience working in journalism and communications in the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America to reflect on the role of the media in either driving or mitigating polarisation and conflict. 

Using examples from different country contexts, Refik, Moky and Miguel discuss polarisation as a deliberate tactic deployed, for example, during election campaigns; ways in which political and economic elites use the media to secure their interests in democratic and authoritarian contexts; and the normalisation of dehumanising language even in media outlets once considered bastions of unbiased reporting. They note the rise of disinformation and misinformation, and the contribution of targeted digital and social media content to the increasing simplification of stories and thereby narratives. 

Reflecting on opportunities, the panellists point to polarisation often being more of an issue in political rhetoric and the media than on the ground; the continuing relevance of reporting that critiques power; and the instructive diversity of types of media content in different countries, including how it enables the voices of young people to be heard. They share strategies for holding the media accountable for inciting violence, funding independent media, promoting content on the rich middle ground between polarised positions, and fostering the use of depolarising language among key actors to enrich narrative landscapes.

This video extends the practical guidance in IFIT’s discussion paper on media and narrative, which proposes approaches for ensuring the media reduces the influence of dominant simplified narratives and amplifies a multiplicity of complex stories that encourage peacebuilding in divided contexts.

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