Peace Journalism and Journalism for Peace

TMS PEACE JOURNALISM, 9 Jul 2012

Udaya R. Tennakoon – TRANSCEND Media Service

Understanding the Differences and Relationships between Peace Journalism and Journalism for Peace

Talking about media or journalism is most important topic everywhere in the world today, because of its hegemonic power, influence for society and the way of it is used. In the same time, if we can talk about peace journalism or   journalism for peace, it is necessarily important and responsible duty of the humankind those who are involving into the subject in every field. Having taken the idea about media for a culture of peace, I wish to write this paper base on the topic under the conceptual theme of “Understanding the differences and relationship of Journalism for Peace and Peace Journalism”. To do this, I‘ll try to find the facts going to Egypt in the time of revolution and after in the situation of Egypt going on. I here take theoretical and analytical ideas of the scholars and other writers to enrich this article.

Basically looking at the definitions for relevant concepts, it will support to understand the topic and also to enter for the topic for clarifications. As a vast subject and also developed field with modern technology, journalism has itself different identities and developments and also definitions in every field. As a whole, here, if we go to general definition, it will be easy to understand for discussion.

Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and business, journalism also covers cultural aspects of society such as arts and entertainment. The field includes editingphotojournalism, and documentary.[1] Even though there are several ideas for this vast subject, considering the above definition, we have to think of where the space for peace in the subject of journalism, while the journalism loves and eager to taste conflicts. According to that, we can say simply that practice of investigation and reporting of events and trends to broad audience should be brought without any enforcement to make happened such a conflict or violence tendency because of the name of journalism. Peace journalism and journalists must be impartial as well as neutral while he/she reporting or writing about the situation and has responsibility to create awareness for reducing conflicts and intentions should be focused on towards peace. When we turn up from journalism to peace journalism, the concept is to be realized well.

Peace journalism has been developed from research that indicates that all too often news about conflict has a value bias toward violence. It also includes practical methods for correcting this bias by producing journalism in both the mainstream and alternative media and working with journalists, media professionals, audiences, and organizations in conflict. This concept was proposed by Johan Galtung[2] Other terms for this broad definition of peace journalism include conflict solution journalism, conflict sensitive journalism,[3]constructive conflict coverage, and reporting the world.[4][2]

According to his broad idea for the peace journalism, there are some important contributions and also in the same time contradictions and differences can be found out in the practical field, if we think of the role of journalism and elements of journalism.  Lippmann understood that journalism’s role at the time was to act as a mediator or translator between the public and policy making elites. The journalist became the middleman. When elites spoke, journalists listened and recorded the information, distilled it, and passed it on to the public for their consumption. His reasoning behind this was that the public was not in a position to deconstruct the growing and complex flurry of information present in modern society, and so an intermediary was needed to filter news for the masses.[3]

According to The Elements of Journalism, a book by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, there are nine elements of journalism.[2] In order for a journalist to fulfil their duty of providing the people with the information, they need to be free and self-governing. They must follow these guidelines:

1.     Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.

2.     Its first loyalty is to the citizens.

3.     Its essence is discipline of verification.

4.     Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.

5.     It must serve as an independent monitor of power.

6.     It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.

7.     It must strive to make the news significant, interesting, and relevant.

8.     It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.

9.     Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.[4]

Having considered these elements and ideas, working in peace journalism or journalism for peace, we can find some kind of relationships and also differences, especially in the fields of peace like conflict solution journalism, conflict sensitive journalism,constructive conflict coverage, and reporting the world. Journalist as a mediator or journalism in ethical point of view, peace journalism faces some kind of challenges. When someone is going to fulfil the intention of peace, he/she has to take challenges avoiding the truth sometimes and has to work going step towards rather than being a journalist.

Anyway, in the context of the society and in order to relevance, it is a question of which type of journalisms do we need to use on behalf of societal structure. If a country or a society faces many difficulties with conflict, anti democratic incidents, and suppression from one side, this kind of country essentially needs democracy, freedom and peace. In that sense, we have to use journalism for peace instead of peace journalism. That means, there are several steps to overcome for having freedom and peace. From conflict to peace, there are many moments, periods to pass and in different stages to be worked in journalism during that period. For instance; we cannot talk about peace journalism in Egypt in the time of uprising as a whole. In that time there was a people struggle against the regime of Mubarak and its military power that was corrupted and undemocratic for the people. So in that type of situation, journalist could not work for peace journalism but one could work in journalism for peace ultimate sense. In between there were several stages to pass and to convey ideas towards the public on behalf of revolution and about the revolution. If we looked at the Egypt situation and observed well about the behaviour of media, it is not easy to say about the way of media played.

If someone says that in the revolution time, I used my journalist’s works impartially, it would be nice but as a peace worker or a human being, we have to stand before the side of justice. If the masses comes forward against the authoritarian regime to topple it and crying for democracy and peace, where could we stand is a problematic moment and in that sense, I think that we cannot talk about peace journalism but we can work in journalism for peace.

In the context of Egypt, it could be seen how majority of media have worked. From traditional level to modern level, journalism was used sitting the side of people except CIA media and pro Mubarak media. While those journalisms were working in the side of people, they could have to manage and convince to minimize the violence. In Egypt it has happened, even though counter incidents of violence were there. In such a situation any one cannot expect pure struggle without violence but the important thing is to guide people for not to have weapons and blood shedding incidents. The behaviour of media during that time including inside and out side Egypt, especially BBC and Al Jazeera and most of international media played a big role but one cannot say whether it was peace journalism. Any way, because of ultimate goal for freedom the Egypt, they used journalism for peace in Egypt and the people in the out of context can say that reporting was one side and violent oriented and so and so. These are the structural relationships and differences to be realized in one sense.

Following paragraphs were chosen to identify the reporting about the situation and it will help to understand the struggle in that situation.

The most sublime moment occurred when Muslims and Coptic Christians engaged in common prayer on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, chanting “We are one!” – providing the best answer to the sectarian religious violence. Those neocons who criticise multiculturalism on behalf of the universal values of freedom and democracy are now confronting their moment of truth: you want universal freedom and democracy? This is what people demand in Egypt, so why are the neocons uneasy? Is it because the protesters in Egypt mention freedom and dignity in the same breath as social and economic justice?

From the start, the violence of the protesters has been purely symbolic, an act of radical and collective civil disobedience. They suspended the authority of the state – it was not just an inner liberation, but a social act of breaking chains of servitude. The physical violence was done by the hired Mubarak thugs entering Tahrir Square on horses and camels and beating people; the most protesters did was defend themselves.[5]

Peace journalism is when editors and reporters make choices – about what to report, and how to report it – that create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value non-violent responses to conflict.

If readers and audiences are furnished with such opportunities, but still decide they prefer war to peace, there is nothing more journalism can do about it, while remaining journalism. On the other hand, there is no matching commitment to ensuring a fair hearing for violent responses, if only because they seldom struggle for a place on the news agenda.

How come? To report is to choose. ‘We just report the facts’, journalists say, but ‘the facts’ is a category of practically infinite size. Even in these days of media profusion, that category has to be shrunk to fit into the news. The journalist is a ‘gatekeeper’, allowing some aspects of reality through, to emerge, blinking, into the public eye; and keeping the rest in the dark.[6]

If work of the journalism for peace from the context of Egypt is changed to the post revolutionary time in Egypt, it will be the work for peace journalism. Here I wish to draw my attention having ideas of Andre Glucksmann to point out the issues prevailing in Egypt  and to be resolved for peace. His argument is very important for Egypt and he says that no guarantees for the revolution

A popular uprising, which sees off a despotic regime is called a revolution. Every great Western democracy knows its own violent origins and the France of St. Just in particular: “The circumstances are only adverse for those who fear the grave.” The murder of Khaled Said, the young blogger who was beaten to death by the police in Alexandria, did not intimidate the people, it galvanized them. Facebook and Twitter are the modern day Samizdat.  The small group of internet citizens carry the torches of dissidence.

A power of opposites, freedom offers “the deepest abyss and highest heaven” (Schelling). Europe’s path shows us that a revolution can go in any direction, towards a republic, but also towards terror, conquests and wars. In the same moment that the power is shaking in Cairo, Tehran is celebrating the 32nd anniversary of its revolution with a festival of hangings and savage torture. Egypt – please God – is neither Khomeni’s Iran,  nor Lenin’s Russia nor the Germany of the Nazi revolution. Egypt will become what its youth in their eagerness to breathe and communicate freely, what its Muslim brothers, its suspicious and secretive army, and its rich and poor who live light years apart, want to make of it.

Forty percent of Egyptians suffer from malnutrition, 30 percent are illiterate. This makes democracy difficult and fragile but in no way impossible. If it were, Parisians would never have occupied the Bastille. According to a PEW poll from June 2010, 82 percent of Egyptian Muslims want the introduction of Sharia law and stoning for adulteresses; 77 percent find it normal for thieves to have their hands hacked off and 84 percent are in favour of the death penalty for anyone who changes religion. This puts a lid on any overly rosy predictions for the future.
Saying revolution and freedom is not the same as saying democracy, respect for minorities, equal rights and good relations with neighbouring nations. All this has yet to be achieved. We welcome the Arab revolution and will continue to watch with our eyes open to the potential dangers. But we should not pretend it is something it is not: all the risks, even the worst dangers, still lie ahead. We only need to look back at our own history: the future has no guarantee.[7]

In conclusion, I try to identify these concepts in different contexts and also in relationships in between from journalism to peace journalism and journalism for peace. Here I want to empathize the concepts of journalism for peace and peace journalism in broader contexts and the relationships and differences when these are applied in the real field. So for the peace worker in the field of journalism has to play a third eye role in between the context from conflict to peace and even after the so called peaceful time.

References:

1. Andre Glucksmann , Revolution without guarantee http://www.signandsight.com/features/2124.html – Journalism, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism

2. Jake Lynch, http://www.transcend.org/tms/about-peace-journalism/1-what-is-peace-journalism/

3. Journalism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism

4. Peace Journalism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Journalism

5. Slavoj Zizak,For Egypt, this is the miracle of Tahrir Square, http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2011/feb/10/egypt-miracle-tahrir-square

NOTES:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Journalism

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism

[5] Slavoj Zizak,For Egypt, this is the miracle of Tahrir Square, http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2011/feb/10/egypt-miracle-tahrir-square

[6] Jake Lynch,http://www.transcend.org/tms/about-peace-journalism/1-what-is-peace-journalism/

_______________________

Udaya R. Tennakoon – Poet/ Diaspora Writer/ Peace and Human Rights Activist. Student at the World Peace Academy, University of Basel, Switzerland.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Jul 2012.

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One Response to “Peace Journalism and Journalism for Peace”

  1. satoshi says:

    The article above is very important and precious for both journalists and their readers/viewers/listeners. Thank you for posting this article!