Media And The Politically Negotiated Conflict – OpEd


“It just is nothing foreign to consciousness at all that could present itself to consciousness through the mediation of phenomena different from the liking itself; to like is intrinsically to be conscious.” — Edmund Husserl

Voices all across the journalistic circles have elicited the response that the media plays a critical role in politically negotiated conflicts. Whether it is the uprising in Kashmir over Hizb-ul-Mujahidden operative Burhan Wani’s death, use of pellet guns by the forces, the K question in India Pakistan relations, the Israel Palestine conflict or the Naxalite movement in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, west Bengal and Orissa, the mediation process has been effective is some ways in establishing peace in the affected regions.

Mediation is the means by which conflict situations are addressed and catered to in order to not distort the peaceful social fabric of affected lands. Talks, dialogues, military intervention, negotiations, bilateral meetings etc are all various manifestations of mediation. One important aspect of mediation is neutrality. This is to ensure both sides of the warring factions are given a platform to present their viewpoints. The media provides this platform. Unfortunately sensationalism has overshadowed ethical journalism and hence maintaining a neutral stand and showcasing empathy for the warring factions are no longer possible. Those who take sides are branded as pseudo liberals giving rise to a fresh set of debates.

The end goal of any mediation process is conflict resolution and management. In common parlance conflict resolution is the course of action by which two or more parties engaged in a disagreement, dispute, or debate reach an agreement to resolve the issue. Historically all confidence building measures and mediation by the United Nations has failed as Pakistan continues to create havoc on the Indian soil through terrorism and proxy wars.

What the media can do?

1. The Media can give a voice to the warring factions to settle their dispute
2. It can inform the government and the masses about the issue generating a constructive debate
3. It can act as the negotiator through eminent panellists and experts suggesting measures to mitigate conflict
4. The media can generate public opinion through digital polls aiding conflict resolution etc.
5. Through Litigation the media can coax the judiciary to settle matters legally
6. Media can open the gates to explore many possibilities of resolution

Mediation is essentially a third party intervention to facilitate negotiation for a mutually accepted solution.The mediation process in conflict resolution is distorted if the mediator does not maintain a neutral stand. During the cold war India chose to remain non-aligned with any of the blocs focussing on its internal and external economic growth and development. It is important to note here that the mediation process is often not time bound and can go on endlessly as in the case of Kashmir (1947). More than that, the warring factions must be willing to negotiate to reach a settlement.

Mediation essentially leads to arriving at mutually beneficial solutions for the warring factions. However the mediator may or may not be able to resolve the issue but in International Politics mediation is seen as a powerful tool that has the potential of changing the geopolitical dynamics of conflict. Clausewitz had opined that war or conflict is simply extension of politics by states using other means. Therefore it would not be incorrect to conclude that almost all conflicts are politically driven now-a-days. The channel of communication plays a pivotal role in mitigating conflict. The focus of the mediator should be on solutions and not positions.

The fourth estate has become a larger than life entity and media trials have become a norm in communication studies. But the role of mass media is both escalation and de escalation of conflict cannot be ignored. It is media that could provide a middle path to any pre existing conflict scenarios. Discussions play a key role here. The primetime television debates are designed to provide alternatives to existing conflicts through serious brainstorming sessions. Very rarely a solution has not been discussed but given the history of commercialisation of the media, neutrality has gone for a toss. We are misguided by pseudo liberal journalists.

Whether the media can play the role of the mediator, is open to subjective interpretation but given the outreach of the mass media today it surely can facilitate the negotiation process.

Vishakha Amitabh Hoskote

Vishakha Amitabh Hoskote is a Communication Professional, Research Scholar and a Defence Enthusiast. With an MA, MPHIL in International Relations, Political Science and Development Communications, Ms Hoskote regularly writes for Eurasia Review on subjects of geopolitical importance.

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