OTPIC Officially Retired
As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.
The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.
International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA
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The media plays a very important role in most community, public policy, national, and international conflicts. Depending on the nature and the amount of media coverage, the situation can be made better or worse. If the media does a good job of presenting the issues clearly, from both sides' points of view, much can be done to correct misunderstanding and avoid escalation borne from rumors and fear. Coverage of moderate, rather than extreme positions is also helpful, as is coverage of attempts to de-escalate or resolve the conflict.
Sometimes, however, the press fails to understand the important nature of its role in conflict escalation and inadvertently escalates the conflict by publicizing inflammatory remarks and stories, giving far more coverage and/or editorial support to one side of a conflict over another, or focusing on the destructive aspects of the conflict to the exclusion of the constructive aspects.
Conflict parties and intermediaries can help prevent such occurrences by making the effort to explain the issues to reporters in as careful and non-biased a way as possible. They can explain what conflict management processes are in place or are being considered, who is involved and why, how the process is structured and why, and ask for the medias support in giving positive, responsible coverage of these events. (In societies such as the United States, which have freedom of the press traditions, it is important that efforts to build a more positive relationship with the media stop short of efforts to control how a particular story is covered. Such efforts can easily lead to a counterproductive backlash in which the media concludes that the parties are attempting to manipulate them.) Given their time constraints, however, reporters usually appreciate fact-finding assistance such as press releases, issue papers, and names and phone numbers of key people to contact for more information.
Direct appeals can also be made to the media's sense of social responsibility. By involving media representatives in efforts to more constructively address a conflict, the media can be shown ways of enhancing their prestige through public service efforts designed to help the community better deal with difficult and dangerous situations.
When negotiations are held in private, the press can get very suspicious, and will sometimes try to develop stories from rumors about the private meetingsrumors which may or may not be true. To prevent the spreading of false rumors, frequent press releases that explain what is happening in the negotiations and why can help generate positive media coverage. If press releases are impossibleas they are with especially sensitive negotiations that need complete privacy--explaining to the press why such privacy is needed, and promising a full report at the end can be helpful.
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Melissa Baumann and Hannes Siebert--The Media
Links to Related Approaches
Opening Lines of Communication
Rumor Control Teams
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