Changing media representations of enemy leaders: A comparison between the Israeli–Palestinian and the Northern Ireland conflicts

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Abstract

In times of conflict, the media tend to create a dichotomy between ‘us’ and ‘them’, which emphasizes the justice of ‘our’ side and the viciousness of ‘the enemy’. In this way, the media not only reflect an existing political reality but also contribute to its construction. But do the media also work in the opposite direction and may contribute to the advancement of peace processes through complex and multi-dimensional coverage of the enemy? The present study examines whether and how mass media change the images of enemy leaders during peace accords compared to violent pre-agreement periods. For this purpose, an analytical framework of seven parameters was developed, analyzing the media coverage of rival leaders in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict (Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat) and the conflict in Northern Ireland (David Trimble and Gerry Adams). The findings indicate that the media portrayal of the leaders has changed significantly on three out of four sides: the Irish-Unionist, the Irish-Nationalist, and the Palestinian. The conclusion is that positive change in media representations of enemy leaders may accelerate emerging peace processes and improve the social climate toward them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1484-1502
Number of pages19
JournalJournalism
Volume22
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Enemy images
  • Good Friday agreement
  • Oslo agreement
  • enemy leaders
  • media representations

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