Media Diplomacy Essay

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Media diplomacy has become a major instrument of foreign policy, and journalists are more frequently and more intensively engaged in diplomatic events and processes. Sometimes they even initiate diplomatic processes. The media functions both as an independent actor and as a tool in the hands of policymakers and journalists.

Three interrelated revolutionary changes in mass communication, politics, and international relations have transformed the traditional secret diplomacy. All-news global networks broadcast almost every significant development in world events to almost every place on the globe or disseminate information on the Internet, available almost everywhere in the world (Seib 2012). The revolution in politics has generated growing mass participation in political processes and has transformed many societies from autocracy to democracy. Favourable image and reputation around the world achieved through attraction and persuasion (soft power) became more important than territory, access, and raw materials obtained through military and economic measures (hard power). Together, this created new types of interactions between the media and diplomacy. Several experts have argued that global television news now drives foreign policy (the “CNN effect”; Gilboa 2005).

Cohen (1986) suggested that media diplomacy served three policymaking tasks: conducting public diplomacy, sending signals to other governments, and obtaining information about world events. Gilboa (2000) distinguished between three uses of the media in diplomacy: “public diplomacy,” where state and nonstate actors use the media and other channels of communication to influence public opinion in foreign societies; “media diplomacy,” where officials use the media to investigate and promote mutual interests, including conflict resolution; and “media-broker diplomacy,” where journalists temporarily assume the role of diplomats and serve as mediators in international negotiations.

During grave international crises or when all diplomatic channels are severed, media diplomacy provides the sole unblocked channel for communication and negotiation between rival actors. When one side is unsure how the other side might react to conditions for negotiations or to proposals for conflict resolution, officials use the media to send messages to leaders of rival states. Media events – meetings between protagonist leaders seeking an opening for conflict resolution and even longer-term reconciliation – best represent media diplomacy. They help to break diplomatic deadlocks, create a climate conducive to negotiations, and promote a favorable climate for sealing an accord.


  1. Cohen, Y. (1986). Media diplomacy. London: Frank Cass.
  2. Gilboa, E. (2000). Mass communication and diplomacy: A theoretical framework. Communication Theory, 10, 275–309.
  3. Gilboa, E. (2005). The CNN effect: The search for a communication theory of international relations. Political Communication, 22, 27–44.
  4. Seib, P. (2012). Real-time diplomacy: Politics and power in the social media era. Basingstoke: Palgrave

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