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Better the devil you know: the advantages (and problems) of using media sources for the study of war fatalities

Joakim Kreutz, Uppsala University

Arguably the most important aspect for researchers and policymakers is to have access to reliable information, especially regarding war. In recent years, a multitude of ‘new’ methods such as epidemiological surveys, demographic techniques, and post-conflict investigations have been used to estimate mortality in armed conflicts. In these studies, estimates have often been compared with figures used in the conflict research community without a thorough investigation of the sources and methods used to compile the latter. This paper discusses the advantages and problems of data collection using media sources and presents new data on global war deaths 1989-2008, primarily collected through a systematic use of media sources. Furthermore, the paper compares whether this methodology provides estimates of greater validity and reliability than some country-specific and global datasets compiled using other methodologies. In conclusion, the paper discusses the possibility of combining different methodologies in order to improve our knowledge about war fatalities.

Presented in Session 102: A decline of violence? Measurement and empirical issues