Peace and war frames in the media : representation of the Libyan civil war

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The news media are an important source of information for many people. Readers expect news media tell them the truth. They are hardly aware of the process of selection, framing and the problems journalists face whilst doing their work. Reporting from a zone of conflict is particularly challenging. Despite this, media have become powerful conflict actors as their reports influence public opinion (Cachalia, 2011). And public opinion in turn is related to foreign policy, through the socalled CNN hypothesis, and/or the manufacturing consent paradigm. Johan Galtung (1998; 2000), one of the founding fathers of peace studies, accuses media of ‘war journalism’. The media focus on violence, highlight the differences between groups, present conflict as a zero-sum game and ignore the broad range of causes and outcomes of conflict. Audiences reading war journalism are served a simplified black and white image, which makes them more likely to support violent ‘solutions’ to the conflict. As neutral reporting on conflict is often impossible, Galtung suggests journalists opt for a bias towards peace: peace journalism. By using ‘peace frames’ peaceful solutions can be emphasised. Peace and war journalism theory has been operationalised, both in a practical way for journalists who want to write peace framed articles, but also for researchers who want to analyse existing articles. The theory has been applied to many intraand international conflicts and cases of military intervention. Previous research by Lee (2009, p. 267) has shown that media are more likely to use war frames when their own country is involved. This thesis uses Galtung’s theory of peace and war journalism to examine the media coverage of the Libyan civil war in 2011. That year, a revolution took place in which Libya’s former regime headed by Gaddafi was toppled by opposing groups. The conflict was intense and an international coalition got involved. The military intervention was initially aimed at upholding a no-fly zone. Later on, its character became more active as targets were bombed by the coalition. In October 2011 Gaddafi was killed, and the National Transitional Council declared Libya’s liberation. This research compares the media of intervening countries (The United Kingdom and France) with the media of a non-intervening country (Germany). From all three countries a leading newspaper was selected (The Guardian, Le Monde and Die Welt) from which a sample of 312 articles was taken. These articles were coded using a list of codes indicating peace and war journalism. The analysis consisted of two parts. First an analysis of the metadata, which determined the total number of articles published on Libya, the number of articles that made the front page, the average length of the articles and their location in the newspaper. The second part of the analysis concerned peace and war journalism. It looks at peace and war orientations, specific peace and war codes, and a score was calculated in order to be able to compare articles. The analysis also looked at accusations and examples of propaganda, and media attention for Libya before and after the conflict. The analysis shows that media from the intervening countries indeed used significantly more war frames than the media from the non-intervening country. On average, articles from Die Welt were peace framed and those from The Guardian and Le Monde were war framed. But two important remarks need to be made: although peace journalism was dominant in Die Welt, war frames and examples of propaganda were present in Die Welt as well. And secondly: although The Guardian and Le Monde were both guilty of war journalism, there were also remarkable differences between these two papers, so they should not be lumped together easily. Le Monde mostly focussed on institutions and obscured peaceful solutions, whilst The Guardian presented an ‘arena perspective’ on the conflict and focused on killings and material damage.
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