Tuesday 28 April 2009

Sri Lanka: The Other "100 days"

This originally appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 28 April 2009.


It seems the media have been gearing up for the "100 days" milestone of Obama's presidency since election night -- not just in the US, but around the world. There's nothing like a long-predictable news peg for getting op-eds honed, reporters positioned and TV news graphics coordinated. Such extensive preparation creates a momentum of the mainstream news machine that is almost impossible to divert off course, even with a "we're all going to die" porcine pandemic story.

But there is another "100 days" story: on 20 January 2009, the same day as Obama's inauguration, the UN began tallying civilian casualty figures in the war in northeastern Sri Lanka. As government forces steadily constricted the rebel LTTE (Tamil Tigers) into a smaller and smaller zone, some 200,000 civilians were trapped, shelled by their own army and prevented from leaving with equally lethal force by the cult-like LTTE who claim to fight in their name.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Media: If You Are Not Covering Sri Lanka Right Now, Why Not?

I posted this on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 21 April 2009.


"A mass slaughter of civilians will take place Tuesday at noon. And everyone knows it." These are the words my colleague used to describe what is happening in Sri Lanka today in his new article for Foreign Policy's online magazine. It is not an exaggeration: what's happening in Sri Lanka is a massacre in progress.

Friday 17 April 2009

Somalia: The Key to Security at Sea Is Stability on Land

My Crisis Group colleague, Daniela Kroslak, and I wrote this short comment for The Independent, which ran it on 17 April 2009.


Living in the West, you could be forgiven for thinking that Somalia was little more than a dark and dangerous pirate theme park where American ship captains and US special forces go to gain their 15 minutes of fame. But piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa is merely a symptom, not the disease. The underlying issue is that the world has left Somalia to fester as a failed state for 18 years.

That's nearly a generation that has produced civil war, anarchy, massive civilian casualities and displacements. The chaos has given birth to extremism and terrorism. True, optimism is not in huge supply when it comes to Somalia, but with the right international approach, there are a few green shoots of hope that might be nurtured into some sort of stability.

Friday 3 April 2009

An Overview of Media Development in Post-Conflict Transition

This piece formed the basis of a speech I delivered to a European Union workshop on "the Role of Media in Conflict Prevention" on 3 April 2009. It began as a set of notes I'd been making on the subject for years and is the kind of all-inclusive media development text I'd been wanting to write for some time. Sometimes it's good to have a conference or other event to force you to pull all your thoughts together.


If you look at media-related projects in post-conflict situations in recent decades -- though you can go back much further, of course, as this is not a new field -- there appear to be lots of practical lessons learned, but they often seem specific to one theatre and at best only partially transferable to others.

The good thing is that few can doubt the importance of media development in an overall post-conflict package these days. After the horrific role played by Radio Mille Collines in driving the Rwandan genocide through its hate propaganda, there is a widespread understanding that irresponsible media can help tear apart a fragile society. And after success stories like the UN-sponsored Radio Okapi, which has been helping to foster a feeling of national unity in the shattered Democratic Republic of the Congo, there is a growing awareness that responsible media can help repair and even strengthen a post-conflict society.