Peace Journalism is a form of journalism that frames stories in a way that encourages conflict analysis and a non-violent response.
Peace journalism aims to shed light on structural and cultural causes of violence, as they bear upon the lives of people in a conflict arena, as part of the explanation for violence. It aims to frame conflicts as consisting of many parties, pursuing many goals, rather than a simple dichotomy. An explicit aim of peace journalism is to promote peace initiatives from whatever quarter, and to allow the reader to distinguish between stated positions and real goals.
Peace journalism is a response to traditional war journalism and reportage; practitioners believe that the traditional approach emphasises the current conflict while ignoring the causes or outcomes. A similar approach is found in Preventive journalism, which extends the principles to social, economic, environmental or institutional problems.
Peace Journalism is when editors and reporters make choices - of what stories to report, and how to report them - which create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value non-violent responses to conflict.
It flourishes, under that or similar names, in countries such as South Africa, Colombia and Indonesia, where journalists, like other professionals, tend to ask themselves what contribution they can make to bringing peace in their society.
Journalism in the west, in particular in English-speaking countries, has a different tradition. That is not to say there is no Peace Journalism. There is some, and it is easy to see how there could be more. Plenty of Peace Journalism could be done, in ways entirely in keeping with the methods of western journalists and the expectations of their readers and audiences.
Peace Journalism uses conflict analysis and transformation to update the concepts of balance, fairness and accuracy in reporting.
The Peace Journalism approach provides a new road map tracing the connections between journalists, their sources, the stories they cover and the consequences of their reporting - the ethics of journalistic intervention.
It applies an awareness of non-violence and creativity to the practical job of everyday reporting.
Peace Journalism and balance
The principles of Peace Journalism correspond roughly to the four checklist points put forward in the Reporting the World book.
Some journalists, in some places, use them with the conscious aim of making a contribution to peace. But they are also useful pointers to any journalist who just wants to offer better-balanced reporting. To achieve balance, in the examples considered in RtW seminars, we need more coverage that:
- Illuminates issues of structural and cultural violence, as they bear upon the lives of people in a conflict arena, as part of the explanation for violence;
- Frames conflicts as consisting of many parties, pursuing many goals - 'cat's cradle' rather than 'tug of war';
- Makes peace initiatives and images of solutions more visible, whoever suggests them;
- And equips us to distinguish between stated positions, and real goals, when judging whether particular forms of intervention are necessary or desirable.
These are the checklist points and also the basic principles of Peace Journalism. The case made in Reporting the World is that these would help to offer more balanced coverage, helping readers and audiences to form their own views about the conflicts besetting our world and the best way to respond to them.
Main developments of Peace Journalism around the world
RtW directors Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick, along with many others, have provided training and teaching in Peace Journalism to professional journalists and others, in many places around the world. These are just some of the main developments:
- UK - 1997-99 Summer School/conference series at Taplow Court, Bucks
- INDONESIA - Peace Journalism prize, 2000; Peace Journalism training by AJI, the independent journalists’ union, and the British Council, as well as Reporting for Peace training by Internews.
- COLOMBIA - 'Medios Para La Paz', series of conferences and publications for journalists.
- SOUTH AFRICA - the Media Peace Centre, Cape Town, ran a major journalist training programme across Africa.
- AUSTRALIA - MA course in Conflict-resolving media, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney, 2000 – ongoing; at University of Queensland, 2005-ongoing. Annual Media Peace Award by Conflict Resolution Network of Australia.
- NEPAL - Peace Journalism training by GTZ, development agency of German government, in cooperation with Nepal Press Council, 2002; editors programme to encourage ‘conflict-sensitive reporting’, ongoing
- TRANSCEND, the international network of invited scholars and practitioners for peace and development, runs occasional on-site courses in Peace Journalism as well as on-line training as part of the TRANSCEND Peace University, from February 2003. See http://www.transcend.org