Is there a dynamic correspondence between the unfolding of media narratives about conflict and how that conflict plays out on the ground? In particular, can this question be applied productively to the Maluku wars, an outbreak of religious violence at the end of Indonesia’s long developmentalist epoch (1966-1998)? This paper argues that far from being disinterested purveyors of unproblematic truths, media workers are implicated in the creation and spread of ideas and images that shape the political discourses which exacerbate violent conflict. Its method is discourse analysis of a canon of journalism that reported the conflict in its first few years. Despite their papers’ diverse origins, news reporters from both metropolitan dailies under study – Kompas and Republika – employed storytelling conventions that produced ‘primordialist’ readings of this violence. This textual strategy on top of an analytic failure to track shifting power relations between political elites in Jakarta and Maluku did nothing to assist a negotiated peace and may have contributed to the war’s significant escalation.
Recommended CitationSharp, Steve, Framing religious conflict: primordialism writ large, Asia Pacific Media Educator, 21, 2011.