Kavita's cover image

Kavita Bedford

Year of Award: 2017 Award State: New South Wales Multimedia > Print, Publishing And Journalism
To combat violent extremism by exploring international 'alternative narrative' approaches - Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Turkey, Greece

Key Findings:

Alternative narratives can work as preventative model -Some of the key findings from this report that the ‘success’ of alternative narrative work depends on the aims of why they are being employed. If the aim is to challenge people with extremist attitudes they will not be successful. They are most useful, if employed for prevention purposes.

Controversy of counter-narrative work - Counter-narratives have been previously used a key approach to counter public attitudes and violent extremism, but the terminology is controversial. In the sector there has been a lot of debate surrounding ‘counter-narrative’ work or counter messaging work and its effectiveness. There has been a general consensus that you are not going to change someone’s mind by telling them their ideology is wrong. In the field it is important to move away from employing counter narrative work, at least, as the only tactic. There is a push to find challenged to move into more “constructive” narrative work, by direct engagement or employing tactics to ‘redirect’ from already existing online content.

Role of government -Government actors play a vital role but are not well-suited to act as a counter-narrative producer or messenger. Government can play a valuable role by facilitating grassroots and civil society actors best placed to act as counter-narrative messengers. But they tend to lack credibility as effective messengers with relevant target audiences. As a result, this research looks mainly at other new initiatives that are not solely reliant on government funds.

Direct engagement -  One new key approach is to reach out to engage directly to supremacists and extremists and by engaging with their narratives to open up dialogue. New approaches, like Moonshot, find the individuals who are accessing and espousing this material and have social workers, former extremists, counsellors reach out to them and start direct conversations to able to compete with extremists’ recruiters.

Digital companies joining forces to tackle online hate and violent extremism - In recent years big digital companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo are joining forces to tackle online hate and violent extremist content. With youth radicalisation and high levels of engagement occurring on their online platforms, these companies are funding and joining with experts, governments and foundations to explore the importance of narrative and storytelling work. There are still difficulties to measure their effectiveness and there has never been a general consensus among experts or practitioners. Many critiques find technology companies interventions into countering violent extremism a "Band-Aid" solution. And many claim the standard for success must be higher than videos watched and ads clicked. It raises a bigger debate as to what role should a tech company play in countering violent extremism?

Content-based approaches – Redirect Method - The ‘Redirect Method’ is one of the latest approaches which uses Adwords targeting tools and curated YouTube videos uploaded by people all around the world to confront online radicalization. It focuses on the slice of ISIS’ audience that is most susceptible to its messaging, and redirects them towards curated YouTube videos debunking ISIS recruiting themes. This open methodology was developed from interviews with ISIS defectors.

Stronger focus needed in Australia on the Far-right - Interestingly in Australia the online space is more heavily weighted to the far right. With an increased focus on far-right threat in Europe, Australia can learn from methodology and narrative work in how to progress the debate and engage communities in the sensitive issues in a policy context where communities are often distrustful of government.

Media freedom and public trust in journalism are at an all-time low in Europe - The European Centre for Journalism supports various programs across the European Union Immigration to provide research and analysis on the impact of media on public opinion in Europe. They found public trust is at an all-time low. Looking to create new media ventures.

Media Narratives around Immigration - The REMINDER Project is a major international analysis of migration in and around the EU. This work explores not only how journalists perceive the national narratives around migration that they themselves help to generate, but also what is hidden behind the scenes. They found concerning migration and international mobility, there is a tendency to frame immigration in the context of social problems, such as the increase in delinquency and crime, rather than stressing the positive aspects of immigration to a receiving country.

Government Broadcasters + Editorial Integrity - TRT World in Turkey is a new venture aiming to shift perceptions and is an interesting case study to look at regional narratives on violent extremism and the role of media and government and editorial integrity.

Start Up Models - Organisations like Moonshot and On Our Radar have established themselves with more of a start-up model. This has given them independence and self-fund research into new approaches and editorial independence. Both companies take their profit and re invest into their research and development programs to trial and test methodologies and diversify work that is often considered too risky for funders or self-fund media work that they think is ground breaking and that communities say they want to put public sphere.

Paving the way for new voices requires new approaches -  In the context of storytelling and media many well-intentioned individuals find themselves as spokespeople or championing the voice of others, but this is still, unwittingly, embedding oneself in a similar model. Creating spaces’ for shows based on a certain culture, even when well-intentioned, are still often engaged still in a politic of othering. “To find a way take yourself out of the mix and behind that is where the ground-breaking jump that we have made. This doesn’t mean you can’t make good journalism, but it is done in a different way.”

Participatory theatre and grassroots storytelling as preventative model - Participatory theatre and storytelling has been found to be a useful model for preventionbased work of you at risk and works towards community resilience. One of the preventative projects Search for Common Ground found successful began in Kenya, working with the criminal justice sector to engage with the most at-risk youth joining Al Shabab through participatory theatre. Roundhouse theatre use theatre to engage young migrants, refugees and people in lower socio-economic demographic to feel like the theatre is a home.

Storytelling and media on refugee crisis - In Berlin, Germany the basic welfare for many refugees is incredibly well provided for, such as the case of Templehoff. But there is concern for what happens to refugees when they resettle and the rising anger towards them, in a city which is also facing housing shortages. The discourse in the media in general has changed when reporting about refugees (in Germany), at the beginning emphasis was on the ‘welcome culture’ and today the topic is deportation not integration.

Storytelling in Refugee camps - While storytelling and media approaches are being employed to tackle public sentiment, there is also the widespread issue of the morale and wellbeing of those most vulnerable and living within the refugee camps. In Greece, their key concern is how to support and deal with the refugees that are filling the camps and the country is struggling to provide accommodation and services to those who are already here. Storytelling workshops and theatre are being used in some camps now in an effort to combat conflict, depression and raise wellbeing.

Keywords: Migration, journalism, 'countering violent extremism. storytelling, 'alternative narratives', counter-narratives, refugees, immigration, conflict

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