Media Development and Countering Violent Extremism: An Uneasy Relationship, a Need for Dialogue
Governments have focused their efforts particularly on counter-messaging campaigns, and have provided support to civil society on initiatives aimed at challenging ISIS online by disseminating alternative, non-extremist narratives about current events. Most major donors funding media development also support programming related to countering violent extremism, often with a component related to building the capacity of NGOs to produce content on social media. Perhaps more worrying to the international community, however, is ISIS’s prolific use of media for international recruitment, fearmongering, and dissemination of its cause. ISIS propaganda is impressive and strategically leverages modern communication platforms in a highly visible way.

Given the prominent roles of messaging and alternative narratives in the CVE agenda, it is no surprise that CVE and international media assistance have become so closely associated. But many are concerned that policymakers will lose sight of the value of independent media in and of itself. In this report I describe how media development practitioners perceive the expansion of the CVE agenda’s influence into various aspects of their field, and the different and sometimes ambivalent ways in which they respond to these perceptions. There are three distinct views on how the CVE agenda is influencing media development efforts: programmatic critique, pragmatic adaptation, and engaged reassessment. Two conclusions emerge strongly from these interviews. The first is that the efforts to distance CVE conceptually from media development are not providing the guidance needed to navigate an increasingly blurry line between the two fields in practice. The second is that audience reception studies and investments in media information literacy are needed, yet receive inadequate attention in CVE efforts and funding.