Part of the solution or part of the problem? News journalists and editors as ‘conflict actors’ in the context of the violent conflict in eastern Ukraine

Thomas Slätis

In violent conflict, the consequences of journalism can be constructive – a source of hope – or indeed its opposite: this conference paper explores the role of news journalists and editors in Ukraine as ‘conflict actors’ from the perspective of conflict transformation theory. Their views, adopted institutional practices and editorial decisions are reflected in media content and hence impact on how the conflict in the country’s eastern part is produced and enacted, and ultimately impact on its dynamics. Conflict transformation theory allows to interpret those processes so as to assess how they alter the characteristics and manifestations of conflict, such as its structural and attitudinal aspects (Miall 2004; Ramsbotham et al. 2011).

The key concept is mediatization, which in the context of violent conflict has arguably entered a new phase, “arrested war” (Hoskins & O’Loughlin 2015). It is characterised by appropriation and control by mainstream media of social media dynamics, where the former selectively capture exchanges of user-generated and other social media content grant them credibility by entering them in the mainstream news media.

Television remains the most important news source in Ukraine (InMind 2017). By interviewing journalists and editors in national and regional television stations, the actions and processes in negotiating content mediation across various media outlets are explored. The data is analysed using subject positions as classifications, viewpoints and focalisations (Törrönen 2013). The results contribute to understanding how journalists and editors in mainstream news media can be construed as factors in conflicts and providing avenues for exiting their violent forms.