Education towards violence free communication and conflict solution
Dr Hansjoerg Biener:
Radio for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights
|Anyone with access to mass media from outside his or her own country can easily notice differences in the reporting about world affairs which are not only differences of opinion, but seem to be part of a wider framework of perspectives. In international radio, the BBC has acquired fame for her standards of reporting, and audience research shows that BBC London and the Voice of America are the international voices most listened to. Nonetheless, in the Cold War era many knew that they ought to also listen to the opposing voice. Indeed, the Voice of Russia still at times differs from the Western reporting as has always been the case with China Radio International Beijing. But one should even think of voices like All India Radio and Channel Africa Johannesburg and will even more notice that the world really looks different from different angles.|
The Power of the Media
Hate vs. Peace Radio
PESC Promoting the Awareness of Peace Radio in the Context of National and International Radio
Current articles on the Peace Radio Web Site
Freedom of Information as a Factor of Peace
Subversive Broadcasting still very much ahead
The Power of the Media
In countries where much of the population is illiterate and poor the power of radio is particularly obvious. Radio broadcasting is the main medium for mass information and education but can also be used for misinformation and propaganda. In civil war and crisis situations, survival will depend as much on getting reliable information as it does on getting food, water and medicine. The need for information makes civilians vulnerable for misinformation. But: Communication facilities are almost always the first targets of assault. In any coup control of the national radio centre is of prime importance to proclaim victory, and regional rebels seize regional stations to proclaim that they are a force to be reckoned with. Especially in countries like Liberia, Somalia and Congo (Kinshasa) where state order has collapsed faction leaders and warlords have used their own radio stations for more than information or propaganda.
Sometimes one might wonder why people enjoying a life without a daily struggle for survival seem to be interested in the reporting about conflicts and catastrophes rather than on societal improvement and scientific and cultural achievements. Even peace researchers tend to focus more on the factors of conflict and conflict resolution rather than on the factors that keep peaceful relations running.
Similarly, hate radio received more attention in the media than peace radio efforts. One might remember that content analysis as a scientific method started with a special interest in the techniques of radio propaganda exhibited both in the US and in Europe since the 1930s. Some of the early propaganda also had religious motivations, and still today some religious broadcasts leave the terrain of competing convictions and propagate hatred.
vs. Peace Radio
Obviously, media can contribute to the rule of law, provide a means of participating in the society as well as influence manners and mentalities. Radio broadcasting seems to be the medium best suited to conflict or post-conflict situations, because it combines relatively low costs, high flexibility and high impact among people hungry for information, but lacking access to leaflets or newspapers.
In hate radio those responsible for the contents use media power not only to present one-sided views or to deceive the public, but to deny others the right of living or at least living where “I” live. The “reasons” cited may be ethnic origin, religion, political conviction, sexual orientation or whatever. On the other hand, in several regions hate radio faced the opposition of radio stations for peace, democracy and human rights. Their efforts are routinely documented on the Peace Radio Web site of PESC. With many sites on international and national radio already on the internet and even the existence of sites concentrating on the documentation of clandestine and hate radio stations, the Peace Education Standing Commission (WCRP) has decided to establish a web site on the positive efforts of NGO's promoting peace, democracy and human rights through radio services.
The term "open society" was first proposed by French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and developed further by the Austrian philosopher Karl Popper (1902-1994) in his 1945 book Open Society and Its Enemies. His concept of an open society is based on the recognition that people act on imperfect knowledge and that no one is in possession of the ultimate truth. In practice, an open society is characterized by the rule of law; respect for human rights, minorities and minority opinions; the division of power; and a market economy. Similarly, German peace researcher Dieter Senghaas, named six interdependent factors for maintaining peace: force monopoly, rule of law, interdependence / self-control of individuals, opportunities for democratic participation, social justice and a culture of conflict resolution. Obviously, media can contribute to the rule of law, provide a means of participating in the society as well as influence manners and mentalities. Radio broadcasting seems to be the medium best suited to conflict or post-conflict situations, because it combines relatively low costs, high flexibility and high impact among people hungry for information, but lacking access to leaflets or newspapers.
Promoting the Awareness of Peace Radio in the Context of National and International
To be mentioned on the Peace Radio Web site a NGO station or programme had to meet the following criteria:
- adherence to journalistic principles in its reporting
- humanitarian programming
- financial support from renowned international sources
With many sites on international and national radio already on the internet and even the existence of sites concentrating on the documentation of clandestine and hate radio stations, the Peace Education Standing Commission (WCRP) has decided to establish a website on the positive efforts of NGOs promoting peace, democracy and human rights through radio services.
To be mentioned on the Peace Radio Website a NGO station or programme had to meet the following criteria:
The definition also excludes some government sponsored broadcasting which did or might have effects for international peace, democracy and human right. The stations at issue are Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and similar services of the USA. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty which just celebrated 50 years of broadcasting started as an anti-communist propaganda machine of the CIA, but did change quite dramatically and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize after the fall of communist rule.
The exclusion of stations is not to be seen as disapproval of their work, but will be more due to the different emphasis of the Website. Nonetheless some of the more listened to international stations are mentioned to give a complete picture about the peace radio efforts in a given country.
Articles on the Peace Radio Web Site
are now featured at the Peace Radio Web site at www.evrel.ewf.uni-erlangen.de/pesc/PESC-peaceradio.html.
Information is regularly checked and updated drawing on individual research and news provided by international readers and listeners.
Some of the organisations
mentioned in the survey decided to use their own transmitters, others hire
airtime on existing broadcasting facilities. With the end of the Cold War,
many of the facilities formerly used for official international broadcasting
are now available for rent by almost anyone with sufficient funds and a
message for the world. Various agencies such as Deutsche Telekom, Sentech
(South Africa), Merlin (UK) and MCCBN (Russia, CIS) are offering airtime
to interested parties. Operating the privatised network of BBC broadcasting
facilities both in the UK and overseas Merlin delivers over 1000 hours
of short wave and medium wave broadcasts every day for international and
religious broadcasters world wide.
of Information as a Factor of Peace
The right to information is guaranteed in international law, including also under the guarantee of freedom of expression in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Many countries around the world are now giving legal effect to this right, both by including access to information in their constitutions and by adopting laws providing concrete processes for its exercise. A Model Freedom of Information Law, based on best international practice, is online at www.article19.org/docimages/1112.htm. Nonetheless, nearly a third of the world's population lives in countries where there is no press freedom. (Reporters without Borders Press Release 2 January 2002)
The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalist's group with 500,000 members in 106 countries, report on journalists and media workers killed during 2001 records 100 confirmed killings and deaths under investigation. This is the highest toll in six years. Many victims died in war zones, others were targeted by assassins, others were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The IFJ says that media groups like CNN, the BBC, and Reuters and Associated Press have shown concern by defining a code of practice to improve safety for journalists, but more must be done.
Broadcasting still very much ahead
Despite peace radio efforts propaganda broadcasts and clandestine broadcasting are still very much ahead of the efforts to promote national and international peace. Although not all propaganda and clandestine broadcasting could be counted as hate radio, some stations are said to fall into this category. So it does make sense to note that after almost a decade of decreasing activity 2001 was the second year of increased subversive broadcasting activity in a row. During the year 2001 the activity of political clandestine stations broadcasting internationally has increased by 4.7 % to 1432 weekly broadcasting hours (WBH). According to German Clandestine Specialist Mathias Kropf the three most active among the 21 target areas are Iraq with 367 WBHs (+8), Korea DPR with 217 WBHs and Cuba with 162 WBHs (both unchanged). Clandestine activity to Asian target areas has increased by 9.1 % to 1045 WBHs, while activity on the African continent dropped by 7 % to 211 WBHs. The activity to target areas on the American continent has remained unchanged at 176 WBHs.
Even with the advent of the internet one might still give international radio a try to listen to the different voices of the world. The most prominent recent examples are the reporting on the 11 September terror attacks of Al Qaida as well as the war on terrorism. Although it is always difficult to judge events from afar, one will surely get a personal first hand impression of different views which might contribute a more valid personal own view.
Dr Hansjoerg Biener has extensively written on international media, including his dissertation. Recent publications include
2001 Radio Broadcasting and Central Asia, in: Central Asia Monitor (Institute for Democratic Development, Vermont) 10,2001,1, S. 17-23.
2002 Broadcasting to Tibet, in: Central Asian Survey 21,2002,4, S. 417-422. (0263-4937)
2003 The Arrival of Radio Farda. International Broadcasting to Iran at a Crossroads, in: *MERIA (Middle East Review of International Affairs) Journal 7,2003,1 (März 2003), S. 13-22, http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2003/issue1/biener.pdf.