Whereas ‘weapon’ is defined by the Merriam-Webster as a device used to injure, defeat or destroy. Conflict on the hand is defined as the interactionofinterdependentpeople who perceive opposition of goals, aims and values and who see the other party as interfering with the realization of these goals. (Putman and Pooke, 1987).
It is factual that the media in performing their basic roles of informing, educating and entertaining, providing the society with relevant information, serving as a watchdog, preventing and resolving conflict are supposed to adhere to their professional ethics of neutrality, accuracy, objectivity and loyalty.
The existence of the media is and will always be a gift to society. Imagine a society without an information. Over the years, the media has always being a channel where information’s are gotten from. The strength and authority of the media keeps growing day-by-day. If the media were to be a human, I am sure it would have been the most powerful person on the earth. And even if it says it is standing for ‘President for the earth, it would go a long way’
Nonetheless, the 21st century media, in discharging their duties, have been noted for serving as a weapon of conflict. In view of this, the following points about to be listed below will concretely prove that the media indeed play a crucial role in today’s conflict.
To begin with, it has been noted that propaganda and war have gone together like peanut butter and jelly for centuries. What happens mostly is that, political parties in oppositions are always given platforms to share their sides of stories when especially something of sought happens, in doing this, the oppositions turn to degrade the other party or use abusive words. Quite a number of times, these exchanges lead to arguments which finally ignite the conflict. For instance, on Asempa FM in February this year, the NPP Organizer, Nana B and the NDC National Communication officer, Sammy Gyamfi engaged in a heated argument which resulted into Nana B slapping Sammy Gyamfi. So in this context, we will conclude by saying the media was the platform or weapon used in creating this conflict.
Again, the media serves as a weapon of conflict through the agenda setting, the framing theory and the hypodermic needle theory. This means that the media is able to sort out issues, place more emphasis on the sorted ones, and set them as agenda. The result is that all the information we are allowed to receive are what the media feed us with. And we realize that most often than not, the agenda set by the media create public upheavals which eventually lead to inter-tribal conflicts, political conflicts, just to mention but a few. A particularly tragic example of this is the genocide in Rwanda, where Hutu-controlled radio RTLM persuaded over 50,000 individuals through the Framing and Agenda Setting theory to participate in mass killings against the Tutsi minority. (Yanagizawa- Drott 2014).
Also, it’s an undeniable fact that in times of conflict, the media do well to show images of exploding places and helpless individuals running helter-skelter for safety. This is to say that instead of working for ways to manage and eradicate the conflict, they rather intensify the conflict by interrogating the factions involved. Most often than not, Journalists who happen to find themselves in this situations ask provocative questions which eventually fuel the intensity of the conflict. Example, Anas and Kennedy Agyapong.
Moreover, in some countries like the UK most mediahouses are owned by corporate families that include arm manufacturers and big oil firms which have a direct financial stake in the fuelling of what to suit their selfish desires. As a result, ‘as the media work, they amplify the sound of guns rather than muting them’. (Johan Gattung). Which is to mean that every conflict is probably fought on two battle grounds; one, the actual battle field and two, the minds of the people. On the ground, the media play an important role because, it defines the parameters of the conflict itself. It is the media that ultimately build, shape and influence perceptions about conflicting parties, their needs, interests and the cause of the conflict. There are two parameters when it comes to the role of media in conflict situation. These are; media as an escalator of conflict and media as a dampener of conflict. And in most cases, the media are seen to be doing the former rather than the latter.
Last but not the least, the media serve as a weapon of conflict through flouting their ethical principles of objectivity, neutrality and accuracy. What happens is that most reporters in times of public riots and upheavals, embed themselves in the issue that they gradually become subsistent on the same dreadful rations eaten by the parties involved. In no time, they become partisan to the extent that they are unable to report the honest issues and eventually become subjective, biased and inaccurate.
Judging from the above plethora of points, one can simply hardly refute the fact that the media is indeed a weapon of conflict. With the power and influence they have, they are used or they become weapons of conflicts.
By; Reuben Sackey