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The News Media, Civil War, and Humanitarian Action

Larry Minear, Colin Scott, and Thomas G. Weiss
ISBN: 978-1-55587-662-3
ISBN: 978-1-55587-676-0
1996/123 pages/LC: 96-17327

"A concise analysis of many of the principal issues facing external actors in foreign civil wars."—Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology

" A brilliant condensation of just about all the pertinent information anyone would need to know about the extent and nature of humanitarian crises, complete with case studies.... a concise and authoritative primer."—John M. Phelan, Ethics and International Affairs


The civil wars that have been prominent features of the first post–Cold War decade have revealed a close and active relationship among the news media, governments, and humanitarian organizations. Beyond loose talk of the "CNN factor," however, analysis of this linkage and attention to its implications have been lacking.

This brief volume looks at institutional interactions between the news media on the one hand, and government policymakers and humanitarian agencies on the other. Case studies from Liberia, northern Iraq, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, and Rwanda distill some of the experiences gained from calamities that have elicited widely varying coverage and responses.


Larry Minear has worked on humanitarian and development issues since 1972, both as an NGO official and as a consultant to UN organizations. He is codirector (with Thomas G. Weiss) of the Humanitarianism and War Project, a research initiative based at Tufts University. Colin Scott is a consultant in humanitarianism, development, and media issues. He spent seven years with Save the Children. Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.


  • Introduction.
  • External Institutions in Civil Wars.
  • Early Post-Cold War Experience.
  • Common Ground for Improvement: Better Policy, Better Action, Better Coverage