An analysis of the role of newspapers in peace building: case study of the 1997 Likoni clashes
Mohammed, Fatma A
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Newspapers coverage of conflict continues to be a double-edged sword; it could either quell or fuel conflict. Many at times, the newspapers are blamed for fueling conflicts. The 1997 Likoni clashes in Kenya shocked many people as grotesque atrocities being committed to once upon a time a good neighbor in a peaceful and laid back town characterized by good relations and neighborliness. While the Likoni clashes continued for more than 40 days after they made headlines; the newspapers played a critical role in highlighting this conflict. The extent the newspapers played a peace building role as they reported the conflict as it appeared on 13th August 1997 is addressed by this research. This project employed purposive sampling of two mainstream newspapers: The Nation and The Standard, to examine how they covered the 1997 Likoni clashes. All the articles that were published for a period of five months were collected for content analysis. Collected data was organized and using a coding sheet, analyzed based on newspapers coverage, employment of conflict sensitive journalism and state of the newspapers during the period of study. Key informant interviews were carried out to provide an authoritative basis for the findings from the content analysis. Findings revealed that the newspapers published 436 articles and gave the articles prominence based on the placement; there were editorial content of about 8% which stirred debate which resulted to the published letters to the editor. The newspapers had indeed employed aspects of conflict sensitive journalism as the covered the Likoni clashes. Conflict sensitive journalism training needs to be integrated by curriculum developers to ensure journalist trainees are better peace building actors as they cover conflicts. Media houses should unite and advocate for a better media environment where reportage is not interfered with by the political power. The newspapers should be recognized as an important actor in peace building when a conflict arises and be more involved during peace building efforts.The role of the newspapers during peace building should be appreciated and documented; a practical approach that will be used by the newspapers to build peace as they cover conflicts world over.