Why has the media done such a poor job of reporting on civil resistance movements? The first reason is the fact that the media equates power with a capacity for violence and thus reports accordingly, and the second is that the organizers and activists that are struggling agains injustice often lack strategies for forging effective relationships with the media.
In an attempt to address this latter challenge the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict has produced a video series called ‘Pressing Your Case: Nonviolent Movements and the Media.’ The film attempts to answer fundamental questions such as; how can activists forge more productive relationships with the media? How can they craft their message so that it will be more easily understood by journalists and editors? And how can bridging the gaps between civil resistance movements and the media actors that cover them help nonviolent campaigns and movements advance their goals?
The film features Al Jazeera journalists Riz Khan as the host, as well as interviews with Aung San Suu Kyi, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, and civil rights activist and scholar Mary E. King. It’s a series of 4 videos roughly 20 minutes long and it’s useful for activists and organizers who are waging any form of nonviolent struggle against a variety of injustices in any environment. It can also be of tremendous help to smaller localized movements that have little experience dealing with the media.
Overall the videos get across effectively several important themes that activists, organizers, trainers, and practitioners should keep in mind when interacting with the media on behalf of a struggle. First that movements cannot rely on the media to cover their struggle correctly if left to their own devices, however if engaged effectively the media may become one of the movement’s greatest allies. Thus it’s always important to be proactive, have a media strategy and a plan for carrying it out. Secondly, that the media, like most conditions within a struggle is not monolithic and it’s power can be harnessed through developing the skills necessary to do so.
This series of videos may also be useful for journalists interested in learning how to cover nonviolent movements more effectively.