Countering violent extremism through media and communication strategies – A Review of the Evidence

This report presents the analysis of a corpus of academic and grey literature relevant to a key
challenge facing our society. How can media and communications be used to counter identity-based
violence (IBV) or Violent Extremism (VE)?
Part I focuses on “Counter-Narratives”, looking at the evidence relating to strategic policy
communication strategies and counter-propaganda techniques. This reflects literature from
policymakers, think-tanks, and civil society initiatives rather than the academic literature base.
Key findings include the following:
• Current literature and policy concerned with countering propaganda is dominated by the language
of ‘counter-narratives’ but a common understanding of this relatively new lexicon has yet to emerge.
• There is little hard evidence that proves interaction with VE content leads to participation in VE
• The hypothesis that VE narratives or the real life threat of VE can be countered by an alternative set
of communications is an assumption that remains unproven.
These findings challenge claims that responding to propaganda strategies by firing back
with “counter-narratives” can be effective.
Part II looks at “Alternative Approaches” to the use of the media to counter violent extremism,
drawing on insights from the “media development” and “media assistance” sectors, and research
into whether mass media and new communication interventions can inhibit identity-based violence
in certain crisis situations. Key findings include the following:
• The theoretical foundations for these alternative approaches are supported by a stronger and more
established research base, drawn from the multi-disciplinary fields of development, peace building,
and social cohesion.
• Media projects have less impact if seen to be linked to a political agenda.
• A growing evidence base suggests that radio and television drama addressing issues of identity,
reconciliation and tolerance have a positive an impact on public attitudes and behaviour.
• Media assistance can ensure that local and domestic media can respond appropriately to VE
• There is an emerging evidence base regarding the potential for rapid reaction media and
communication strategies in situations where there is a threat of IBV.
These findings suggest that alternative media strategies can help. But the trust and credibility of
information providers is crucial.
The final section “Reflections” concludes that the research landscape is fragmented and disconnected.
but suggests several professional/practitioner sectors and academic disciplines could shed light on
potentially effective media and communication CVE strategies.
More needs to be done to draw the threads together to learn lessons and to identify and prioritise
gaps in our knowledge and understanding.

Tags: Counternarratives, CVE, Mass Media, Social Media