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close this bookThe News Media and Humanitarian Action - 1st Edition (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1997, 122 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentINTRODUCTION
View the documentACRONYMS
Open this folder and view contentsPart 1. Complex emergencies, humanitarian action and the crisis triangle
Open this folder and view contentsPart 2. Analysis of media influence and recommendations for crisis triangle institutions
Open this folder and view contentsPart 3. Media relations
View the documentBIBLIOGRAPHY
View the documentNOTES
View the documentGLOSSARY
View the documentDisaster Management Training Programme


Purpose and scope

This training module is designed to introduce the relationship between the news media and humanitarian action as an aspect of disaster management to an audience of UN organization professionals who form disaster management teams, as well as to government counterpart agencies, NGO’s and donors. This module will help the learner understand the news media’s multiple agendas and functions and recognize that the influence of the news media on policymaking and humanitarian response is inconsistent and debatable. This module encourages the learner to develop and nurture more professional relationships with the media, and provides insights and guidelines for doing so. Whereas aid agencies are the principal intended audience of this study, newcomers to the humanitarian arena from the media and from government also may find it useful.

Three sets of institutions - the media, humanitarian organizations, and government policymakers - make up what may be called a crisis triangle. Headline-grabbing crises such as those in Somalia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Haiti have revealed complex relationships among these institutions. Their interaction is increasingly salient to the outcomes of effective humanitarian action. Gone are the days when success was determined principally by humanitarian organizations themselves. The news media, it seems, has become a major humanitarian actor in its own right, helping to frame the context in which governments formulate policy and humanitarian action is mounted. While the growing role of the Western news media is widely acknowledged, the dynamics of interaction with government policymakers and humanitarian practitioners have received little analytical scrutiny to date.

This module explores these dynamics and their implications for effective humanitarian action. It seeks to improve the quality of humanitarian action by strengthening the contributions of these institutions. The questions that follow are intended to enhance debate and improve understanding of the complex interactions that occur among the institutions of the crisis triangle.

· How does the media influence the dynamics of emergency crises and the jockeying for position which results?

· How significant is the pressure of the press, what are its positive and negative consequences, and what strategies are needed by humanitarian organizations for coping with it?

· Does the media stimulate better policy and humanitarian action or just encourage short-term mobilization of resources?

· Have crises been media led? When? Where?

· How might each institution function more effectively and accountably in the humanitarian sphere?

· What are the interests of each institution, as well as their range of responses to humanitarian crises, and their limitations?

· What has been the three-sided interaction among external actors in several recent complex emergencies?

Overview of this module

Part 1 introduces the complex humanitarian arena in which the news media, humanitarian institutions and government policymakers interact. We analyze each of these institutions with reference to its agendas and interests, its range of responses to humanitarian crises, and its limitations. (Since this part is designed as a primer, readers familiar with these institutions may wish to proceed to the following units, or limit their reading to the institutional actors with which they are least familiar.)

Part 2 presents various frameworks for analyzing the timing, level and degree of news media impact on government policymaking and humanitarian action. It examines the relationship among the news media, government policymakers and humanitarian organizations in seven post-Cold War crises: Liberia, Sudan, Northern Iraq, Somalia, former Yugoslavia, Haiti, and Rwanda. This examination illustrates some of the ways that the media do - and do not - influence policy processes and humanitarian responses. Finally it presents recommendations on how each institution can function more effectively and cooperatively in the humanitarian sphere.

Part 3 provides an introduction to dealing with the news media and preparing for media interviews. This part also serves as a springboard for agencies interested in formulating or updating their media relations policies and guidelines.

Training methods

This module is intended for two audiences: the self-study learner and the participant in a training workshop. The following training methods are planned for use in workshops and are simulated in the accompanying “trainer’s guide.” For the self-study learner the text is as close to a tutor as can be managed in print.

Workshop training methods include:

group discussion
simulation and role plays
supplementary handouts
review sessions
self-assessment exercises

The self-study learner is invited to use this text as a workbook. In addition to note-taking in the margins, you will be given the opportunity to stop and examine your learning and anticipate upcoming topics through questions included in the text. Write down your answers to these questions before proceeding to ensure that you have captured key points in the text.