Media, Conflict and Democratisation
Professor Katrin Voltmer is the Principal Investigator (PI) of a comparative research project on ‘Media, Conflict and Democratisation’ (MeCoDEM), which started on 1 February 2014 and will run over three years. The project investigates the role of the media in conflicts that accompany and follow transitions to democracy. Fieldwork involving journalists, civil society groups, governments and international NGOs is carried out in Egypt, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa.
MeCoDEM is funded by the European Union within the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme. With a total budget of 2.8 million Euros, the project consortium includes eight partner institutions from six countries: University of Leeds (coordinating institution), American University Cairo (Egypt), University of Belgrade (Serbia), University of Cape Town (South Africa), University of Hamburg (Germany), University of Oxford (UK), Stockholm University (Sweden) and Ruhr University Bochum (Germany).
Outline of the project:
Democracy is widely seen as a form of government and participatory citizenship that promotes the peaceful negotiation of antagonistic interests and tolerance towards divergent worldviews, identities and beliefs. However, the experience of many emerging democracies shows that this is not always the case. In a significant number of countries the introduction of democratic politics has even exacerbated existing divisions, while the re-configuration of power generates its own conflicts between the winners and losers of the regime change. In many of these conflicts the media – both traditional and new – have played a pivotal role. They have helped oppressed voices to be heard and mobilised resistance against illegitimate power; but they have also made themselves advocates of sectarian hatred and intolerance.
MeCoDEM investigates the interplay of communication and democratisation conflicts in four emerging democracies, each of them representing unique constellations of transitional / post-transitional divisions: Egypt, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa. Based on a comparative case study design, the research covers constitutional conflicts, civic conflicts and conflicts surrounding accountability and good governance. These conflicts constitute arenas of contest where the media interact with the communicative strategies of governments on the one hand, and political activists and political movements struggling for recognition on the other. The project works closely together with relevant stakeholders to develop new approaches to communication that help to bridge divisions and to find common ground for sustainable conflict resolutions.