5. Mass media, technologies & peace.

Media, that which we used to call "mass media" as well as personal media have become key players in the global society. Both interact like never before. Not just journalists and professional agencies but individuals from anywhere in the world can report on what happens in every corner. Together they build a vision of reality and a symbolic horizon. This panorama of communication is the filter through which we read and interpret the current conflict and possible avenues for peace in the various regions of the world. The new citizen’s journalism, spontaneous and diverse, is the result of technological advancement but also a more mature civil society. Freedom of expression is key to this increased participation, reclaimed and exercised also in countries where it would never have seemed possible to speak out.

From this emerges the need to reflect on the use and management of these media, on their decisive contribution to build a level of participation never seen before, to disseminate information in real time and to create authentic chain reactions. It has enormous potential to bring peace to the world, to actively participate in processes of dialogue and spread a culture of peace, or on the contrary, to hinder it.

Accuracy in reporting often requires the denunciation of situations of injustice, abuse of power etc. and it involves the dissemination of what might be called "bad news". This is one element of serious journalism, but it is not enough to remain simply reporting that which is not working. It can be complemented with good practice or successful solutions, and with opinion and analysis, proposals and solutions.

It should be noted that the simple superposition of data does not signify information and that media saturation may be counterproductive for the understanding of the processes. It is necessary for all of us to prioritise, select and analyse information to understand it, going beyond first impressions and the emotional impact that the media increasingly returns to.

Professional journalism in this regard has a very important responsibility when it informs not only the necessary accuracy of their facts but also the use of language because it can easily drive prejudices and resentments. Journalism, a creator of culture must strive to avoid stigmatisation and stereotyping, recognising the dignity of all people and respecting minorities. An effective way to work for peace is to promote the freedom of people, providing the necessary information to form an opinion, disseminating information that encourages mutual understanding and highlighting the reasons for the parties in conflict through a contextualisation of the facts. Good news may also be part of the agenda of the media and thus they can be peacemakers.

This corresponds especially to Faculties of Communication and Journalism as well as trade associations and user groups. It is a reflection on the individual professional work of journalists that includes an ethical analysis of informative activities. This will avoid a fall into frivolity and superficiality where information is considered only as a commodity.

How can the media help in building a culture of peace? What role do social networks, blogs and micro-blogging play in the organisation of citizen demands? How do media messages build a collective memory of communities? Is it possible to demand a media “code of conduct” that prevents the spread of prejudice, stereotypes and resentment? Is it possible to think of information beyond its economic value?