Media Professionals and Rule of Law Practitioners – are we missing each other?

Blog by Janet Anderson, senior RNTC trainer - June 7, 2016
Media Professionals and Rule of Law Practitioners – are we missing each other?

It is tough to be a media and communications professional in a world of development types. On the one hand, many think that media is ‘cool’ and exciting. Some even recognize that it is increasingly relevant in our highly connected world. On the other hand, security experts tend to find journalists rather scary, and academic researchers believe that news is almost always superficial and everyone feels social media can be too ‘shouty’. 

So, how do you present workshops that enable experts in security and rule of law to take media seriously and consider it as one of the elements they can use in their toolbox of interventions in fragile and conflict-affected states? 

First of all, you need to find a shared language. It is of no use to have media professionals spouting forth on “formats” or “running orders”, or even “pixels” and “#hashtag boredom”. No, we need to explain about pinpointing key audiences and obtaining engagement from those specific target groups. 

Second, we need to build bridges so that the years of experience each party brings to the table and the joint concepts of the nature of complexity are shared.

Thirdly, the practical aspect: what kinds of approaches are we advocating for? And how do they fit into the wide range of interventions that are already proposed? 

At the recent Annual Platform Conference at the Bazaar of Ideas in The Hague, I was conscious that the very range of ‘competing’ approaches made it difficult for a media organization to stand out. RNW Media has been experimenting with countering violent extremism via media. Radicalization – especially of young people – has been identified as a key issue to be tackled. In YemenBurundi and Syria, we are trying different approaches. We suggest that other practitioners think about adding media professionals into the mix of potential mechanisms to reach specific target audiences. 

Maybe I’m going to get too far away from development language here – but if you understand that media isn’t only about the technical side of choosing a channel or a format, but also about how people learn, how they are persuaded, and how story plays a vital role in enabling people to be receptive to different ideas and to change their views – then you can start to imagine a whole new world for us to explore. And (social) media is a great place to reach a lot of individuals all over the world directly, cheaply and effectively.

Working with people’s emotions via media is a serious business. Trying to influence them is challenging. 

Some of what I enjoyed most at the event was hearing gritty details of other people’s research. I also wanted to hear more about experimentation – not just success stories – and where people have been able to gain clarity on the impact of their work. 

We came to the Annual Conference to find like-minded partners who want to try innovative approaches to security and rule of law interventions. We hope to continue fruitfully sharing our different expertises and to collaborate on new ways to use media in fragile settings. 

This blog was first published on the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law website.

It was inspired by the Platform's 4th Annual Conference, and in particular by RNTC-led workshops organised there.


Janet is the Relations Manager at RNW Media and a senior RNTC trainer.