Media and Peacebuilding
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Towards a new cartography: Mapping a Peace Process 

 A growing disconnect between the various tiers in the peacebuilding process have contributed in large part to the present imbroglio in Sri Lanka, where the on-going peace process is under severe strain and shows signs of imminent collapse. Partly to blame is the design of the process itself, which has failed to map the process in a coherent manner in order to best judge the drivers of peace which could be leveraged in support of conflict transformation. It is hoped that mapping frameworks based on the peace process in Sri Lanka will support the creation of theory and praxis on peace process mapping that supports conflict transformation initiatives in general.

Peace process mapping is markedy different to the mapping of drivers of conflict. Mapping actors and factors of an on-going peace process is a complex affair. This paper attempts to promote a few frameworks towards this challenging task.

To read the paper in full, click Mapping a Peace Process

Overview of conflict and peace in Sri Lanka

 This brief paper (still a draft), was written for Peace Direct's Insight on Conflictinitiative. It explores the historical underpinnings to the conflict and the developments in the peace process from the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in February 2002 to the Local Government Elections in March 2006.

For a complementary piece of research, see below. 

For the full paper, click here


Landmark legislation and agreements related to peace and conflict in Sri Lanka

 A list of key agreements and legislation in Sri Lanka, until August 2000, that defined the contours of conflict and peace in Sri Lanka. 

Click here for the research. 

Facets of Terrorism in Sri Lanka

In the Sri Lanka, it is now passé to say that the repetitive and continued discrimination against Tamils fostered the terrorist movement. What has to be recognised now is the limitation of terrorism. Terrorists can never engender values of a liberal democracy, pluralism or human rights. Such values are the realm of democratic mainstream politics. Terrorists, both in Sri Lanka and in the world, have to realise that in the final analysis, true peace, justice and equality are not achieved through the barrel of a gun, but through the power of the ballot. Furthermore, legislation inimical to conflict transformation processes and reconciliation between communities, like the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) should be repealed or at the very least, amended.

In the present context, both the State and the LTTE have much to lose if the present peace process breaks down. Both have to recognise that indifference to historical antecedents, the international context and the aspirations of all communities in Sri Lanka, could irrevocably plunge Sri Lanka into a vortex of bitterness, mistrust, mutual acrimony and violence from which there could very well be no return.

Read the full paper here.

On New Terrorism

There are root causes of terrorism. Addresal at the level of these root causes, in the long term (coupled with other more immediate measures to thwart their actions), will be the only way in which to address the core and oftentimes intractable issues that are part of new terrorism. Terrorism primarily serves to erase the line between prudence and panic in its aftermath. A democratic response to terrorism must accept this challenge and craft responses to terrorist activities, both proactively and reactively, that are cost effective, measured, sober and practical.

But above all, responses which are just and sustainable.

Caught between the Scylla of terrorism and the Charybdis of effectively addressing it, democratic states in the 21st have a solemn duty to not only address the symptoms of new terrorism, but address its root causes as well – guided by the recognition that human life, above all else, is sacred, and that to fight fire with fire is to lessen our own ability to argue against the sheer wastefulness of terrorism – old or new, state or non-state.

See here for full article. 

Media and humanitarian disasters 

In covering conflict, disasters and trauma, media personnel must not only follow professional standards as enshrined in their own organisational or national journalism codes and best practices, but also take extreme care of themselves as well. Traumatised journalists cannot frame stories accurately and often need the same counselling as those directly affected by the disaster. A good knowledge of safety issues, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), field conditions and professional guidelines for photographing disasters and interviewing those on the ground etc form a holistic approach to media initiatives in support of immediate to long term relief operations. This holistic approach is one that requires the support of all media organisations and civil society actors in support of media reform in Sri Lanka.

The multi-faceted challenges wrought by the tsunami will require Sri Lanka to re-assess its developmental goals for the next decade. Taking into consideration the needs of the tsunami affected communities and the longer-standing needs of communities affected by conflict, the socio-political upheaval and the psycho-social wounds resulting from conflict and the tsunami will take years to heal. Sensitive to this process, we call upon all media in Sri Lanka to eschew parochial bias and facilitate communal and social dialogues that hold all policy makers, politicians and civil society accountable to the promises made to construct better livelihoods for all those who have suffered trauma.

Click here for full article.


Media and Reconciliation

So much has been written on media and reconciliation that to write more seems almost unnecessary. From toolkits to case studies, many authors have attempted to grasp the nettle of media initiatives that positively influence conflict transformation and reconciliation in post-conflict situations. Yet, the continuing violence that such societies face, the continued death of media personnel and the problems of creating larger debates on reconciliation and peace, coupled with a familiar litany of other issues associated with post-conflict media reform, behoove us to explore further the confluence between such reforms and post-conflict nation building.

In order to promote these processes, one must first attempt to understand them and how they function. Yet journalists, caught up in a world of deadlines and other pressures oftentimes use their profession to promote reconciliation and peace without a full understanding of how these processes work. The net result is one of confusion, where the same terms are used in the service of hugely different agendas. Again, without understanding the rich textures of an on going peace process, public can easily be misled into an understanding that colours their opposition to the inevitable compromises that have to made in such a process.

This then is the stark reality after protracted conflict and contests a more sanguine picture that many reports to donors who fund post-conflict media interventions paint. As such, the role of media in the service of reconciliation is a topic worth exploring, if only to dispel myths that surround the issue and construct and in their place posit a framework to help a society affected by conflict move on from shared grief to new social covenants which under gird just and sustainable peace.

Read full article here.


Right to Information

What the present government must also realise is that democracy is quintessentially about the adherence of government to the will of the people. This basic accountability is impossible unless the present government not only champions FOI legislation, but also commits itself to open and transparent governance. What is needed now is a spirited, informed public that creatively and constructively engages with government in policy making and a government which treats the right to information as the bedrock of good governance working together to forge a better future for Sri Lanka.

Read the full article here.


Conflict Sensitive Journalism in Sri Lanka

The larger goal of peace talks and conflict transformation is to enhance the capacity of a society to manage its own conflicts without resorting to armed violence. Peace talks and conflict transformation processes however, do not take place in a normative void and usually take place in a highly charged and unstable media environment, one in which information is scarce and often suspect. Journalists in Sri Lanka have to realise the pivotal importance of the media in the process of conflict transformation – if media continues to spew out half-truths, propaganda and poor information, it will negatively counter all other attempts at peace building.

Sri Lanka is at present undergoing significant changes in polity and society. To examine the dynamics of this change requires a sensitivity to the historical moment, a commitment to reporting the truth, and an imagination that refuses to be bogged down in the problems of the present. The smorgasbord of issues that come in the wake of the CFA, are part of peace talks in the near future, and indeed, are part of the greater process of conflict transformation requires journalists who don’t just report the facts, who don’t just inform the public, but go beyond the facts and incidents to critically and creatively explore avenues for conflict resolution. Conflict sells – but so should peace, and it is up to journalists to ensure this.

 Read the full paper here.