Media, War and Conflict (MEKK)
The research group investigates and analyses journalism in and about war, conflict and peace processes. The research is of direct relevance to the journalism profession and for the study programmes both in journalism, photojournalism and media and communication at all levels from BA to PhD at the department of journalism and media studies.
What are we researching?
Journalists covering war and conflict lead a dangerous life. Whereas only two war correspondents were killed during the entire period of the First World War, the situation a hundred years later is radically different. Killing of journalists is becoming more common and there is an increasing tendency that the journalists themselves are the aim of the violence. An important topic for the research group is the working conditions of journalists and media workers in war and conflict zones to bring about new knowledge about circumstances that may improve the situation for the journalists and also be included in the training of new journalists.
In an increasingly more complex world the access to information and analyses that see wider structures and relationships are more important than ever. Media messages are decisive to mobilize citizens to be in favour or against a potential war. Analyses of media coverage including visual perspectives of war, conflict and peace processes, are included in the group’s research activities.
Simultaneously there are many challenges connected to modern warfare for journalists aiming and undertaking a professional job. Different actors may have clear propaganda and media strategies using PR-companies, ‘fake news’ and Psychological operations (PSYOPS) to influence the public through the media. Some of these phenomena are not new and in addition to the present situation, and contemporary terrorism, war and conflicts, MEKK also works to draw historical lines to earlier wars.
Journalists’ safety – an ongoing project
Through support from the Norwegian UNESCO committee we have carried out two projects of importance for journalists’ security. We have undertaken a large study which includes interviews with journalists and editors in eight countries on four continents: Tunisia, Uganda, Nigeria, Philippines, Nepal, Colombia, Nicaragua and Norway. We asked:
- How do journalists and editors experience the situation regarding security and threats, and how does this have an impact on the journalistic and editorial work carried out?
- What is the need for and the possibilities for systematic training of journalists who work in areas of conflict?
The projects have for instance resulted in M. Høiby og Ottosen, R. Gender, War and Conflict reporting (2016), and contributions to Carlsson, Ulla (Red.), Freedom of Expression and Media in Transition. Studies and Reflections in the Digital Age . Nordicom 2016.
The research group arranged the launch of UNESCOs “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development: Special Digital Focus” in February 2016, where journalists’ security was a central focus and we participated in the launch of «Partnership to advance safety of journalists» initiated by UNESCO and NORCAP. More information here.
Gender in journalism on war and conflict
How is gender – femininities and masculinities – portrayed in the coverage of war, conflict and peace processes? Which drawbacks and advantages do being a female war correspondent involve? Which stereotypes are easily connected to gender and war and how is it possible to challenge these in journalism?
A central publication here is R. Ottosen and von der Lippe, B., Gendering War and Peace Reporting - Some Insights – Some Missing Links (Nordicom, 2017).
Journalism in conflict and post-conflict
A central question is where to draw the line between war and peace, when peace is seen as more than absence of war and violence. We study the role of journalism in the often very unstable post-conflict period, where a society is neither completely at war nor completely peaceful, and the risk for development in either directions is tangible. The role of media in peace building, reconciliation and memory work is also of interest here. In 2016 several members of the research group contributed to Kristin Skare Orgeret and William Tayeebwa (eds.). Journalism in Conflict and Post-Conflict Conditions. Worldwide perspectives, Göteborg, Nordicom.
Journalism in conflict, flight and migration
How is the refugee crisis covered in the media? How is mobile telephones and social media used during the flight? How do refugees with a journalistic background work with questions linked to evasion and migration? A publication here is Elisabeth Eide (red.) Den dyrebare følgesvennen . På flukt med mobiltelefon. 2017.
Freedom of Expression
Many of the group members work and publish on the prerequisites for freedom of expression and the limits to freedom of expression. This is a field that overlaps with several of the other topics mentioned here, not least with journalists’ security.
The prerequisites for freedom of expression in different countries and development of pedagogical tools for training journalist students in freedom of expression is central to the project ’Shared Horizons’ which cooperates with journalist researchers in Bangladesh and Tunisia.. Forthcoming book: Frey, Elsebeth og Rhaman, Mofizur (red) Negotiating Journalistic Core Values and Cultural Diversities . Nordicom. 2017.
The research group’s members frequently participate at international conferences and do also arrange conferences closely connected to ongoing research and the professional field. We have good experiences from bringing together practicing journalisms with researchers at such conferences. Here are some examples:
- Best practices in teaching conflict, war and peace journalism, HIOA 2016
- The Growth of transnational extremism – and journalistic challenges. HIOA, March 2016.
- The launch of UNESCO’s “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development: Special Digital Focus”, HIOA februar 2016
- Global Journalism and Education, October 2015
- Gender, War and Conflict reporting HIOA 2015
MEKK also participated at the launch of «Partnership to advance safety of journalists» initiated byfra UNESCO and NORCAP. More information here.
Other ongoing projects investigate
- The impact of the Russian revolution in Norwegian press.
- The prerequisites for journalism in the occupied Norway 1940-1945.
- The importance of visual communication in conflict reporting.
- The importance of social media during war and terror.
Relationship to study programmes
The interdisciplinary perspective make the projects relevant to all the study programmes at our department: BA in journalism; photojournalism ;and media and communication,. The projects are of huge relevance to the research based studies at both BA and MA level, for instance the BA course “Global issues” proposing specialization in war and conflict reporting, and the MA course «Globalization, War and Peace Journalism».
Furthermore the research group cooperates closely with the Department’s International Center JMIC.
And with the two international NORAD supported projects