What is Peace Journalism?

September 26, 2016

 

Have you noticed that news media often cover war and violence, but rarely peace and reconciliations?

 

"Very rarely do I see things which I think are balanced," Peace Process Consultant Paul Clifford said in the film Peace Journalism in the Philippines.

 

"The media unfortunately, in many instances, I think have got sucked into this notion that it's all about the war on terror," he said.

 

But a new style of conflict reporting is emerging. Peace Journalism is a way of reporting war in a way that aims to balance sensationalist stories.

 

Dr Johan Galtung founded the field of Peace Studies, and has been working on Peace Journalism since 1960. It is now taught, and practiced, world-wide. He said Peace Journalism is a way of “counter-acting” mainstream media.

 

“Above all,” he told Peace News, “telling the positive stories.”

 

The field is about approaching war-reporting with peace in mind, according to leading figures like Dr Jake Lynch from the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

 

"There are many different ways of reporting conflicts,” Dr Lynch told WACC Global.

 

“What we say is that in some cases you can report them in such a way as to create opportunities for societies at large to consider and value non-violent responses to conflict."

 

Dr Julia Hoffmann told UPeace that journalists do have an impact on conflict, and that cannot be ignored.

"Journalists are party to the conflicts they cover - whether they want to [be] or not,” she said.

 

Peace Journalism is not always easy. Dr Annabel McGoldrick, from the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, admitted it can time-consuming.

 

"Reaching people in remote areas and hearing what they have to say is, by definition difficult,” she said in her film with Dr Lynch, Peace Journalism in the Philippines.

 

“It can't be done every time something happens."

 

But it is possible.

 

Dr Steven Youngblood, director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism, said that the style of reporting isn’t just relevant to reporting on direct violence, and can be applied to any form of conflict. Peace Journalism can even be used to cover domestic politics, including elections.

 

His advice for applying Peace Journalism closer to home?

 

"Don't just report about polls and surveys - and this is a big problem with American media, who particularly in this election cycle (with Donald Trump) have become obsessed with polls and so on,” he said.

 

"We wouldn't suggest that you don't report polls and surveys, but that when you over-report them as a consequence you end up under-reporting issues that really matter to the public."

 

Peace Journalism means less sensation, and more context, so citizens can understand the bigger picture and make informed decisions.

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