Tool 1: The conflict tree | Media and conflict | DW | 30.03.2021
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Media and Conflict

Tool 1: The conflict tree

Example: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. By Mona Naggar

The conflict tree enables journalists to visualise and thus analysze the causes and effects of the conflict they wish to cover.

Our example here is the conflict between Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and members of the host community.

The trunk represents the apparent problems and the issues being discussed by the parties involved.

In our example, the apparent problems are the falling wages, the increasing food prices, the international NGOs and their influence on the job market as well as the increased tensions between refugees and members of the host community. These are just examples — you can find many more of these.

The roots stand for the causes of the conflict. Sometimes they are hidden or not taken into account by the media coverage or in the discourse about the conflict. As long as the roots of the conflict are not resolved, there can be no solution to the conflict. It is much more complicated to tackle the problems based in the roots than to tackle those in the leaves.

In our example, the roots of the conflict are poverty, unemployment, the expulsion of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar, the refusal of the Myanmar government to repatriate them with safety guarantees, the lack of communication between the government and the local citizens, the segregation between the two communities and, last but not least, the crisis of the local media which leads to the spreading of fake news.

The leaves and branches symbolize the effects of the conflict.

In our example, these would be mistrust and fear, the spreading of fake news related to the refugees, the increased security measures by the Bangladeshi authorities or the extortion of some refugees by some Bangladeshis.

The leaves and branches and, to a certain extent, the trunk, may change over time and should be revised periodically. Some factors may overlap: is an increase in tension an apparent problem in itself or is it an effect of the conflict? Are the increased security measures (such as the construction of a fence) part of the trunk or the leaves?

These overlapping topics are not a problem as this scheme is not mathematical but rather a tool to help us understand the conflict.

This tool helps journalists to:

  • Better understand the conflict and to differentiate between causes and symptoms. When reporting on conflicts, journalists often focus on visible and current aspects of a conflict, such as violent clashes or protests. However, these events are often "symptoms." They stand at the end of a chain of a prolonged process which may have received little attention from the media and the public. The conflict tree enables journalists to dig deeper and go beyond the visible parts of the conflict.
  • Become aware of the dimensions of the conflict.
  • Find ideas for new topics related to the conflict to report about, e. g. how misinformation effects the coexistence between the refugees and the host community or to evaluate the impact of unemployment on the conflict.
  • Be able to evaluate the solutions discussed.

The conflict between Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and members of the host community

How close should we get - Media and Conflict | The Conflict Tree

Mona Naggar has been working for DW Akademie as a project manager and trainer for journalism, conflict-sensitive journalism and media literacy since 2011 — mainly in the Middle East and North Africa. 

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