THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN ARMED CONFLICT. CASE STUDY OF UGANDA

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Media is a powerful actor that interconnects the entire world today. As an actor, it can be used for positive or the negative purposes. In conflicts, media can be used as a tool for promoting peace and also as a tool to exacerbate the conflicts further. Conflict areas tend to be the main sources of the threats to human security. These include lack of health security, food security, economic security, political security, community security and environmental security. They tend to nurture international crimes such as drug trafficking, terrorism. Armed conflicts affect the stability of the state making the state weak. The state develops weakness in the law enforcement mechanisms,   low   levels   of   economic   sustainability,   social   diversions   and   insufficient government  capacity.  Media  freedom  is  a  major  challenge  in  most  of  the  African  states especially where the government controls the media on what it reports and media activities. It is through this control that there is spread of propaganda which fuels the conflict. Media freedom is important especially when covering conflict issues since media acts as the voice to have the international community and push the government to intervene so as to end to conflict and restore stability. The main objective of this research was to determine the role media plays in armed conflict. Media determines what the public sees and hears about conflict and other issues that affect the society. They shape the public opinion which plays a major role in governance. However the major concern is where some conflicts are given more attention than others especially international attention through media exposure. The media plays a role in conflict resolution and peace building. This is mainly done through the use of the local media and community media since they are able to interact directly by the affected communities. Media diplomacy serves as a tool in winning local and international masses. One of the effects of media diplomacy and public diplomacy is image building through national branding which has help foster regional integration and good relations among states for example the EAC. Media diplomacy also influences the foreign decisions of a state. Media also plays a role in promoting democracy and good governance in a state by acting as watchdog. They ensure transparency and accountability.  The  study  was  mainly  informed  by  the  agenda  setting  theory.  The  theory described the influence of the media in shaping the reality around subject matters –the media ability to tell us what is important. Evidence from the study suggests that media and journalism play a crucial role in armed conflicts, integration process and democracy. They monitor legitimacy on the actions of the government, leaders and other actors such as regional organizations. The media has also had its share of failures especially in conflict environment where they lack the correct way of reporting conflict information and may end up making the conflict worse. The study recommends accountability of the media to  the public to  ensure credibility and ethical and professional standards are upheld.  There is a need to educate media groups and personnel on the positive ways of reporting conflict issues for peaceful purposes. This can be done through training journalists and news reporters and  equipping them with necessary skills needed in the field. Also, coming up with training programs and many initiatives such as journalist exchanges is necessary for training reporters and journalists on the concept of peacejournalism.

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