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Do mass media interventions effectively promote peace in contexts of ongoing violence? Evidence from Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

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Do mass media interventions effectively promote peace in contexts of ongoing violence? Evidence from Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
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  Peace and Conflict: Journal of PeacePsychology Do Mass Media Interventions Effectively Promote Peacein Contexts of Ongoing Violence? Evidence From EasternDemocratic Republic of Congo Rezarta Bilali and Johanna Ray VollhardtOnline First Publication, August 17, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pac0000124CITATIONBilali, R., & Vollhardt, J. R. (2015, August 17). Do Mass Media Interventions EffectivelyPromote Peace in Contexts of Ongoing Violence? Evidence From Eastern DemocraticRepublic of Congo. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology  . Advance onlinepublication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pac0000124  Do Mass Media Interventions Effectively Promote Peace inContexts of Ongoing Violence? Evidence From Eastern DemocraticRepublic of Congo Rezarta Bilali New York University Johanna Ray Vollhardt Clark UniversityWe report on a field experiment and a focus group interview study that examine theimpact of a media-based intervention (i.e., radio drama) aimed at promoting peacefulintergroup relations in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In Study 1,we used a priming paradigm to assess the causal impact of the intervention among1,522 Congolese community members in North and South Kivu. The results revealedmixed effects of the media intervention on psychological outcomes: Priming the radiodrama increased inclusive victim consciousness while reducing exclusive victim con-sciousness and social distance. However, priming also increased support for conformitytoward leaders, and reduced the belief that cross-group discussions can resolve prob-lems in community. Findings from a follow-up focus group interview study (with 6focus groups,  N     51) shed light on possible reasons for these mixed results. Wediscuss why strategies that are effective in improving intergroup relations in theaftermath of violence might not be as effective in settings of ongoing violence. Keywords:  entertainment-education, intervention, media, conflict, mixed methods Violence and insecurity attributable to ongo-ing conflict can have deleterious effects on psy-chological well-being (e.g., Stevens, Eagle, Ka-miner, & Higson-Smith, 2013) and on people’sattitudes related to intergroup conflict. Exposureto conflict and violence can enhance stereotyp-ical thinking (Bar-Tal & Labin, 2001), elicitmistrust and support for hawkish leaders(Huddy, Feldman, & Weber, 2007), and in-crease political exclusion of outgroups (Canetti,Hall, Rapaport, & Wayne, 2013). These con-texts pose challenges for psychological inter-ventions aimed at promoting positive socialchange. People living under conditions of on-going violence and insecurity are faced withdifferent challenges, psychological resources,and needs than people in settings where vio-lence has diminished (Stevens et al., 2013).Therefore, it is important to examine whetherstrategies that improve intergroup relations inpostviolence settings are equally effective dur-ing ongoing violence.In this article, we tackle this issue by exam-ining the effects of a mass media intervention(specifically, an entertainment-education cam-paign) designed to prevent violence and im-prove intergroup attitudes in the Great LakesRegion of Africa: the radio dramas produced bythe NGO Radio La Benevolencija (Staub,2011). Prior experimental evaluations of this R EZARTA  B ILALI  did her PhD in social psychology atUniversity of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is currently anassistant professor of applied psychology at New York University. Dr. Bilali’s research focuses on social psycho-logical underpinnings of violent intergroup conflict andreconciliation.J OHANNA  R AY  V OLLHARDT  holds a PhD in social psychol-ogy and is currently an associate professor of psychology atClark University, where she is also affiliated with theStrassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Herresearch focuses on psychological processes that contributeto positive intergroup relations in the aftermath of genocideand ethnic conflict, in particular the role of victim beliefsand acknowledgment of mass atrocities and oppression.W E THANK  Radio La Benevolencija Humanitarian ToolsFoundation for their logistic support, as well as CharlotteMacDiarmid, Sara Hakansson, and two teams of Congoleseresearchers who collected the data.C ORRESPONDENCE CONCERNING THIS ARTICLE  should beaddressed to Rezarta Bilali, Department of Applied Psy-chology, New York University, 246 Greene Street, KimballHall, Room 407W, New York, NY 10003. E-mail: rezarta.bilali@nyu.edu      T     h     i   s     d   o   c   u   m   e   n    t     i   s   c   o   p   y   r     i   g     h    t   e     d     b   y    t     h   e     A   m   e   r     i   c   a   n     P   s   y   c     h   o     l   o   g     i   c   a     l     A   s   s   o   c     i   a    t     i   o   n   o   r   o   n   e   o     f     i    t   s   a     l     l     i   e     d   p   u     b     l     i   s     h   e   r   s .     T     h     i   s   a   r    t     i   c     l   e     i   s     i   n    t   e   n     d   e     d   s   o     l   e     l   y     f   o   r    t     h   e   p   e   r   s   o   n   a     l   u   s   e   o     f    t     h   e     i   n     d     i   v     i     d   u   a     l   u   s   e   r   a   n     d     i   s   n   o    t    t   o     b   e     d     i   s   s   e   m     i   n   a    t   e     d     b   r   o   a     d     l   y . Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology © 2015 American Psychological Association2015, Vol. 21, No. 4, 000 1078-1919/15/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pac0000124 1  media intervention revealed a positive impacton several intergroup outcomes in the aftermathof mass violence in Rwanda (Bilali & Voll-hardt, 2013; Paluck, 2009) and Burundi (Bilali,Vollhardt, & Rarick, 2015). However, the ef-fectiveness of this intervention has not beentested in contexts of ongoing violence, wherepeople face continuous traumatic stress. In thepresent research, we extend prior work by as-sessing the impact of a mass media intervention(a radio drama,  Kumbuka Kesho  or  Remember-ing Tomorrow ) using the same theory, format,and methodology as the interventions inRwanda and Burundi, in the context of ongoingconflict in Eastern DRC. Entertainment-Education Media as a Toolfor Violence Prevention andPeace Building Entertainment-education blends educationalcontent with entertaining shows, typically serialdramas (Singhal & Rogers, 1999). The NGO  Radio La Benevolencija  has broadcast fictionalradio dramas in Rwanda (since 2004), Burundi(since 2006), and DRC (since 2006) that aredesigned to prevent violence and promotepeaceful intergroup relations. These radio dra-mas communicate messages based on psycho-logical theories of intergroup conflict and rec-onciliation (Staub, 1989, 2011), and traumahealing after mass violence (Pearlman, 2013)through an entertaining story about a fictionalconflict. The educational messages aim to raiseawareness about factors that lead to mass vio-lence, and provide role models to prevent vio-lence and promote reconciliation. One or twomessages are embedded in weekly episodes,which last 20 to 30 minutes. The messages aresequenced, and each message is repeated sev-eral times in different episodes.The theoretical and methodological ap-proach to developing these interventions isthe same across countries: Steps are taken toensure the appropriate adaptation of the inter-vention to the specific context. Before theproduction, local partners (e.g., representa-tives of civil society and government agen-cies), staff, and academic experts assess therelevance of the messages in the given coun-try, adapt them to the local context, and de-sign the fictional setting of the conflict basedon the nature of intercommunity relations ineach country. Baseline research on the audi-ence’s relevant knowledge, attitudes, and be-haviors feeds back into the specific goals anddesign of the intervention. Thus, in DRC theplot portrays complex relations between mul-tiple groups, and interweaves stories of lead-ers, corruption, and other social issues in thefictional intergroup conflict (information aboutthe program can be found at http://www.labenevolencija.org/drc/radio-soap/). Mechanisms of Change and Impact of Entertainment-Education Interventions Serial dramas based on principles of enter-tainment–education apply Bandura’s sociallearning theory, which posits that human beingslearn through observation and imitation of rolemodels (Bandura, 1986; see also Singhal &Rogers, 1999). Accordingly, the radio dramasuse role models to portray desirable and unde-sirable behaviors, such as encouraging people totake action to prevent violence or resist manip-ulation by leaders. Exposure to prosocial mediaand role models increases prosocial thoughtsand behaviors (Greitemeyer, 2011). The serialdramas have also been shown to transform rel-evant perceived social norms and behaviors (Pa-luck, 2009), and to encourage perspective tak-ing and empathy among listeners by introducingdiverse opinions expressed and discussed bycharacters of the show (Bilali & Vollhardt,2013; Paluck, 2010). The fictional nature of theserial dramas makes the act of perspective-taking less threatening than in the context of theactual conflict (Bilali & Vollhardt, 2013). Ad-ditionally, by portraying fictional intergroupcontact the serial dramas may stimulate imag-ined intergroup contact, which reduces inter-group anxiety and has positive effects on inter-group attitudes (Crisp & Turner, 2009).A year-long randomized impact evaluation of the radio drama  Musekeweya  in Rwanda duringits first year of broadcasting revealed the show’spositive impact on conflict-relevant socialnorms and behaviors (e.g., trust, political dis-sent, tolerance, cooperative behavior: Paluck,2009; Paluck & Green, 2009). Similarly, a re-cent evaluation showed that priming the radiodrama decreased competitive victimhood andincreased intergroup trust and willingness toengage with the outgroup’s perspectives on thehistory of the conflict in Rwanda (Bilali & Voll- 2 BILALI AND VOLLHARDT      T     h     i   s     d   o   c   u   m   e   n    t     i   s   c   o   p   y   r     i   g     h    t   e     d     b   y    t     h   e     A   m   e   r     i   c   a   n     P   s   y   c     h   o     l   o   g     i   c   a     l     A   s   s   o   c     i   a    t     i   o   n   o   r   o   n   e   o     f     i    t   s   a     l     l     i   e     d   p   u     b     l     i   s     h   e   r   s .     T     h     i   s   a   r    t     i   c     l   e     i   s     i   n    t   e   n     d   e     d   s   o     l   e     l   y     f   o   r    t     h   e   p   e   r   s   o   n   a     l   u   s   e   o     f    t     h   e     i   n     d     i   v     i     d   u   a     l   u   s   e   r   a   n     d     i   s   n   o    t    t   o     b   e     d     i   s   s   e   m     i   n   a    t   e     d     b   r   o   a     d     l   y .  hardt, 2013). In Burundi, where the interventionhas been implemented in the aftermath of thecivil war, we also found more positive inter-group and conflict-attenuating attitudes amonglisteners of the radio drama, compared withnonlisteners (Bilali et al., 2015). However, theintervention may be less effective in contexts of ongoing violence—such as in Eastern DRC,where instability and militia violence, includingwidespread sexual violence, are prevalent.There are several reasons why the effectivenessof these media interventions might be hamperedunder conditions of ongoing violence (see alsoMpande et al., 2013). First, ongoing violencemay reduce perceived agency, that is, peoples’belief that they can exercise control over eventsthat affect their lives (Pearlman, 2013). Conse-quently, listeners might be less likely to endorsethe role models’ behaviors if they do not expectsuch behaviors to produce social change in theirown environment (Moyer-Gusé, 2008). Second,the fictional show might remind listeners of their grievances (Paluck, 2010), thereby rein-forcing, rather than transforming, conflict-enhancing social norms. Third, strong uncer-tainty and fear produced by ongoing violenceconstrain cognitive capacities (Eysenck &Calvo, 1992) and increase group polarizationand extremism (Canetti et al., 2013), which, inturn, can hinder perspective-taking and empa-thy. Finally, fear and distress attributable toongoing violence might trigger coping behav-iors among listeners such as avoiding the mes-sages (Witte, 1994). In sum, in ongoing violentconflicts, the potential for the drama’s positiveeffects may be reduced for reasons that are tiedto the listeners’ adverse life conditions and theresulting psychological responses that may beadaptive under these extreme conditions (seeDiamond, Lipsitz, & Hoffman, 2013). Overview of the Current Researchand Context We examined the impact of the violence pre-vention radio drama  Kumbuka Kesho  in a set-ting of ongoing violent conflict, in the Northand South Kivu provinces in Eastern DRC.Eastern DRC has been the scene of local, na-tional, and regional warfare (Lemarchand,2009). This war, officially lasting from 1998 to2003, is often referred to as “Africa’s worldwar” (Prunier, 2008), with more than 5 millionpeople killed. The conflict has continued afterthe official end of the war through rebel groups,exposing the civilians in these provinces to vi-olence and massive human rights abuses, in-cluding large-scale sexual violence (Freedman,2011). In fact, the conditions in Eastern DRChave deteriorated even after 2006—when thefirst democratic elections were held in theDRC—with surveys showing that Congolese inEastern DRC are feeling less secure each year,and an increase in the number of internallydisplaced people (Autesserre, 2012). There aremultiple causes of this increased insecurity andongoing violence, including the illegal exploi-tation of mines and other resources by variousparties (including international actors), localconflicts over land, corruption, and so forth(Autesserre, 2010). Since the war there has beena lack of state authority (e.g., a functioningpolice force, army, courts, etc.) and militiagroups have contributed to the destruction of theinfrastructure. The conflict in Eastern DRC isboth local and regional. Although it is not a clearethnic conflict as in Rwanda and Burundi—in part because there are hundreds, and not twoor three ethnic groups like in these neighboringcountries—several militia groups are ethnicallybased, and some are associated with the con-flicts in the neighboring countries. Importantly,civilians belonging to all ethnic groups havebeen affected by the conflict.Paralleling this context, radio drama  Kum-buka Kesho  tells the story of a fictional city,Bugo, which is going through conflict and in-security as a result of power and wealth ineq-uities among groups, lack of justice, corruption,a divided army, weak institutions, and commu-nities that blame each other for this situation.Bugo is the home of three fictional ethnicgroups that are in conflict with each other overpower and resources (e.g., land, exploitation of mines), because of leaders’ manipulation. Onthe positive side, the radio drama also showsgroups of citizens who get organized to coun-teract the negative social processes that haveexacerbated the conflict.The present research extends prior work inthe postconflict settings of Rwanda (Bilali &Vollhardt, 2013; Paluck, 2009) and Burundi(Bilali et al., 2015) to assess the impact of thisradio drama intervention (using the same edu-cational messages, format and underlying theo-ries) in the context of the ongoing violence in 3MASS MEDIA INTERVENTIONS IN DRC      T     h     i   s     d   o   c   u   m   e   n    t     i   s   c   o   p   y   r     i   g     h    t   e     d     b   y    t     h   e     A   m   e   r     i   c   a   n     P   s   y   c     h   o     l   o   g     i   c   a     l     A   s   s   o   c     i   a    t     i   o   n   o   r   o   n   e   o     f     i    t   s   a     l     l     i   e     d   p   u     b     l     i   s     h   e   r   s .     T     h     i   s   a   r    t     i   c     l   e     i   s     i   n    t   e   n     d   e     d   s   o     l   e     l   y     f   o   r    t     h   e   p   e   r   s   o   n   a     l   u   s   e   o     f    t     h   e     i   n     d     i   v     i     d   u   a     l   u   s   e   r   a   n     d     i   s   n   o    t    t   o     b   e     d     i   s   s   e   m     i   n   a    t   e     d     b   r   o   a     d     l   y .  Eastern DRC. We employed a mixed methodsapproach, including an experimental study(Study 1) and focus group interviews (Study 2)to examine the effects of the radio drama. Thisresearch adds to the extremely scarce literatureon attitudes toward peace and conflict in thisunderstudied context (see Kadiangandu & Mul-let, 2007). Study 1 To assess the causal impact of the radiodrama in Eastern DRC, we used an experimen-tal priming paradigm. Priming (i.e., making sa-lient, or bringing to the forefront of one’s mind)cues that are related to a construct activate at-titudes, memory, and schemas associated withthat construct (e.g., Bargh, Chaiken, Govender,& Pratto, 1992). Priming makes the relevantconstructs more accessible, which in turn mayinfluence attitudes and behaviors. Priming hasbeen used to assess causal impact when manip-ulation of the independent variable is not pos-sible (e.g., when assessing cultural influences:Oyserman & Lee, 2008). We used this paradigmto experimentally test the impact of the radiodrama intervention in Rwanda (Bilali & Voll-hardt, 2013)—where, like in DRC, the radiodrama is very popular and has been broadcastfor several years, making it impossible to ran-domly assign participants to listen to the radiodrama or a control condition. We reasoned thatif the show has an impact, then priming theshow should activate its messages among lis-teners, thereby reinforcing and helping us toobserve its effects. In the present study, weemployed the same audio-based priming tech-nique by exposing participants to the voice of amain character of the show. We predicted thatexperimental priming will accentuate the im-pact of the radio drama, such that listeners whoare primed with the show will express attitudesthat are more in line with its goals, comparedwith listeners in the control group. We alsopredicted that the differences between listenersand nonlisteners should be more pronounced inthe priming condition.Specifically, we used this priming methodol-ogy to assess the impact of the violence preven-tion radio drama on five constructs that predictnegative intergroup attitudes: ingroup superior-ity, conformity, perceived collective victim-hood, political exclusion, and social distance.Across conflict contexts,  ingroup superiority predicts legitimization of ingroup harmdoingand outgroup derogation (e.g., Leidner, Cas-tano, Zaiser, & Giner-Sorolla, 2010).  Confor-mity  has been central to understanding howordinary people transform into perpetrators of mass violence (e.g., Milgram, 1974), includingduring the Rwandan genocide (Prunier, 1995).Cycles of violence in the Great Lakes Region of Africa have been “fed by a victim psychologyon [all] sides” (Mamdani, 2001, p. 267). Thesocial psychological literature suggests that dif-ferent perceptions of collective victimhood caneither fuel or prevent cycles of violence:  Exclu-sive victim consciousness  (i.e., believing thatthe ingroup’s suffering is unique) predicts con-flict-enhancing beliefs (e.g., Noor, Shnabel,Halabi, & Nadler, 2012), whereas  inclusive vic-tim consciousness  (i.e., perceiving similaritiesbetween the ingroup’s and other groups’ suffer-ing) is related to positive, prosocial intergroupoutcomes (e.g., Vollhardt, 2009; Vollhardt &Bilali, 2015).  Political exclusion  is also an im-portant factor in explaining the conflict dynam-ics in the Great Lakes region (Lemarchand,2009). In the North and South Kivu provincesof Eastern DRC, the targets of exclusion vary asconflicts include a large number of ethnicgroups and clans divided along political, eco-nomic, and social lines (Autesserre, 2010).Lastly,  social distance  is also highly relevant tocontexts of mass violence. For instance, inRwandan provinces where there was more so-cial distance between groups (e.g., less inter-marriage), there was greater violence during thegenocide (Fletcher, 2007).Previous research in Rwanda and Burundihad found a positive impact of the radio dramason these outcomes: In Rwanda, the programsreduced conformity, social distance (Paluck,2009), and priming the drama reduced exclusivevictim consciousness while increasing inclusivevictim consciousness (Bilali & Vollhardt,2013). In Burundi, listeners expressed less in-group superiority, social distance, and exclusivevictim consciousness than nonlisteners (Bilali etal., 2015). Although political exclusion was notassessed in previous studies, we added this con-struct because it is a central aspect of the dy-namics of the intergroup conflicts in DRC (Le-marchand, 2009). 4 BILALI AND VOLLHARDT      T     h     i   s     d   o   c   u   m   e   n    t     i   s   c   o   p   y   r     i   g     h    t   e     d     b   y    t     h   e     A   m   e   r     i   c   a   n     P   s   y   c     h   o     l   o   g     i   c   a     l     A   s   s   o   c     i   a    t     i   o   n   o   r   o   n   e   o     f     i    t   s   a     l     l     i   e     d   p   u     b     l     i   s     h   e   r   s .     T     h     i   s   a   r    t     i   c     l   e     i   s     i   n    t   e   n     d   e     d   s   o     l   e     l   y     f   o   r    t     h   e   p   e   r   s   o   n   a     l   u   s   e   o     f    t     h   e     i   n     d     i   v     i     d   u   a     l   u   s   e   r   a   n     d     i   s   n   o    t    t   o     b   e     d     i   s   s   e   m     i   n   a    t   e     d     b   r   o   a     d     l   y .
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