ERIS has singled out electoral-related violence as one of its priority programming areas for 2010 and beyond. In 2010, ERIS designed a multi-sector approach to address the issue of election-related violence: the PACE Programme – Promoting Awareness on Conflict in Elections (PACE). The overall goal of PACE is to support and develop local initiatives coming from a variety of actors to prevent election-related violence.
The media is a powerful tool for spreading information quickly and has a strong impact on public opinion, particularly during elections. Unfortunately, recent experience has demonstrated that media outlets can enflame and exacerbate conflict and violence during elections. However, the media can also contribute to calming tensions and resolving conflict.
Current training offered to journalists on election-related issues does not cover specifically or in sufficient detail the issue of election-related conflict, and therefore does not provide journalists from conflict-prone countries with tools to deals with the challenges they face around elections and election-related violence.
As part of its PACE Programme and based on previous experience working with media professionals and in conflict-prone countries, ERIS has developed a training package for media professionals that focuses on the elections-conflict nexus and will:
- Assist journalists in reporting throughout the electoral cycle.
- Help to ensure that media reporting does not aggravate community, ethnic, religious, political or other tensions and in particular address the risks associated with the use of ‘new’ media.
- Expose journalists to the dilemmas that are involved in attempting to report objectively while at the same time avoiding promoting or exacerbating violence.
- Promote a view of journalistic responsibility which embraces the idea that journalists have a positive role to play in the mitigation and resolution of conflict. It demonstrates that reporting of the electoral process can help to prevent conflicts if it follows ethical principles and good journalistic practice.
The “PACE-Media” course lasts for four days, with the first three days focusing on understanding the electoral process and potential flashpoints, as well as the way media reporting can exacerbate or mitigate violence. The fourth day is optional and should focus on a topic relevant to the country of origin of journalists.
This course was piloted with media professionals from Cote d’Ivoire in the 2010 post-election crisis. The course took place over five days (the course was extended to allow more time for practical exercises on youth communication). The last two days were dedicated to communication to young people, as young people have traditionally been at the forefront of political violence in Cote d’Ivoire for decades. The workshop ‘Conflict, youth and community radio stations' was designed to increase awareness among journalists of:
• Mechanisms that can lead young people to participate in violence
• The treatment of conflict resolution themes for young public audiences.
PACE-Media is supported by the UK government's Knowledge Connect programme, with the participation of Thames Valley University, London.
Image credit: Internews Network under a Creative Commons licence