Reporting In Contentious Times: Insights for Journalists to Avoid Fanning the Flames A Memo is by Over Zero in collaboration with Anna Szilágyi. This memo provides a brief overview of key considerations and pointers for responsible and conflict-sensitive election-related reporting including:
- useful considerations and pointers
- what to avoid and what to do instead
- guidance around misinformation and election violence
- a list of references and links
What and how the media reports will play a critical role in how people understand unfolding events and, potentially, in shaping the trajectory of those events.
Considerations and Pointers
- Provide clear and accurate information in real-time so that people can navigate the election process – from voting to counting and results announcements all the way through to inauguration.
- Provide humanizing reporting and avoid inflammatory rhetoric that may reinforce existing divisions and tensions. Inflammatory rhetoric can be an early indicator for violence – it rachets up the stakes and portrays violence as justified and necessary. These narratives can also justify rejection of democratic norms, conventions, and institutional guardrails.
- Carefully frame escalating tensions and incidents of violence to avoid inadvertently signalling that violence is more widespread or expected than it is. This can fuel the notion that it is normal or acceptable to participate in violence, while increasing the notoriety of people committing violence (and the ideologies behind the violence). It may also intimidate particular groups from showing up to vote – particularly if the violence is depicted as targeting those groups.
Example from Memo
- Propaganda, Misinformation, and the Power of Words: Media and Language Use, A Guide for Journalists by Anna Szilágyi
- Responsible Media Coverage of Elections: A Training Guide by Search for Common Ground
- Violence - Prevention and De-escalation