by Syarif Hidayat
Power, politics and profit have been the key factors in determining the media’s traditional approach towards conflict. But in recent decades, the debate on ‘peace journalism’ as an approach to conflict has gained momentum and several scholars (Galtung, 1973; Lynch, 2005; Bell, 1998; Howard, 2003; Allan, 2007; Keeble, 2010) have argued in favour of the concept.
However, many questions pertaining to the extent of effectiveness of peace journalism and its application to other forms of media remain unanswered. This article is an attempt to explore answers to these questions. It argues that there is a beginning of a paradigm shift in the traditional media’s approach to conflict situations.
While peace journalism was been linked with conflict resolution and advocacy, there is now greater acceptance of it as an attitude that frames a news story. There are also examples to show that it is being applied to other media such as photojournalism, documentary making, film production, investigative journalism, community and specialised media. At the same time, advocates and practitioners of peace journalism face several challenges as there is no universal standard to deal with conflicts.
Peace journalism has been developed from research that indicates that 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. Other terms for this broad definition of peace journalism include conflict solution journalism, conflict sensitive journalism, constructive conflict coverage, and reporting the world.
War journalism is journalism about conflict that has a value bias towards violence and violent groups. This usually leads audiences to overvalue violent responses to conflict and ignore non-violent alternatives. This is understood to be the result of well documented news reporting conventions. These conventions focus only on physical effects of conflict (for example ignoring psychological impacts) and elite positions (which may or may not represent the actual parties and their goals). It is also biased toward reporting only the differences between parties, (rather than similarities, previous agreements, and progress on common issues) the here and now (ignoring causes and outcomes), and zero sums (assuming that one side’s needs can only be met by the other side’s compromise or defeat).
Peace journalism aims to correct for these biases. Its operational definition is “to allow opportunities for society at large to consider and value non-violent responses to conflict”. This involves picking up calls for, and articulations of, non-violence policies from whatever quarter, and allowing them into the public sphere.
Peace journalism analysis suggests that typical news on conflict, with its value bias towards violence and violent groups, has important effects on the parties to conflict. Firstly, peace journalism proponents argue that the bias in favour of publicity for violence and violent actors, “plays into” the interests of violent actors to intimidate and disrupt the peace process.
This is an important example of the Feedback Loop effect: “it is not the influence of news on public opinion as such, but assumptions by parties to conflict about its likely or possible influence, that condition their behaviour”. This bias also weakens and punishes, with less publicity, non-violent groups affected by a conflict, for their lack of violence. Nohrstedt and Ottosen (2002) note: “if traditional media themselves are unable to transmit alternative perspectives and voice the danger is that those […] that feel marginalised will turn to terror in order to make a difference in the media agenda”.
The most visible actions of a group, of which one is not a member, are often considered representative of that group’s behaviour (an effect called the “availability heuristic”). Therefore war journalism’s over-selection of violent, as opposed to non-violent, responses to conflict may actually foster a misperception of excessive threat between parties.
This is then generally exaggerated by other inter-group social-cognitive biases within war journalism. These include biases towards: seeing an outgroup as more homogeneous (with less internal variety) than it really is, ignoring the variety of attitudes towards the conflict; seeing ambiguous situations, or negative group behavior, as playing out internal, and stable, group characteristics rather than external, and variable, circumstances, favourable ingroup/outgroup comparison to increase collective self esteem; and members of groups who perceive themselves to be under threat to be more pressured internally to conform with and reinforce dominant group norms; premature and immediate resistance to ideas on positive responses to violence offered by members of outgroups.
Indeed Dr. Louis Kriesberg, a sociologist at Syracuse University, and expert on conflict resolution points out that: “conventional thinking among partisans in a fight generally attributes destructive persistence in a conflict to the enemy’s character, asserting that the enemy is aggressive by nature, has evil leaders, or adheres to a hostile ideology”.
And Professor of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, Marc Gopin, agrees with the importance of psychological factors in escalating conflict: “being hated normally generates deep injury and corresponding anger in most recipients is what I call a “conflict dance” of action/reaction”.
A peace journalism perspective also highlights another effect of typical conflict journalism on the groups engaged in a conflict: war journalism’s common focus on the human drama and tragedy of violence. Hamber and Lewis (1997) note war journalism “often involves painting doomsday scenarios of victims who are irreparably damaged and for whom there appears to be no solution and no future”.
This creates an increased impediment for the victims of unreported crimes. And the positive experiences of those who have embarked upon a process of recovery is often ignored in war journalism. For example in Israel/Palestine, victims of suicide bombing, house demolition, land and house theft, are often portrayed as defenceless, disempowered victims with no prospect of healing or positive response to their predicament.
Effective non-violent bridge building between communities such as the Hand in Hand Arab/Jewish school network in Israel, are routinely ignored in war journalism coverage. Non-violent initiatives illustrate what can be possible through peaceful responses to conflict but this information is artificially “filtered out” through the coverage biases of war journalism.
Parties are therefore presented with a biased picture of the entire conflict, favouring violent responses to the conflict. Parties are led to believe that that violence is the only way their needs can be met, thereby reinforcing and escalating cycles of dangerous retaliation between groups. Peace journalism would also charge that this pattern of conventional conflict reporting submerges the emotional cost of violent conflict and therefore makes the psychological aspects of cycles of revenge subtle, and so more difficult to prevent.
All of this missed information could represent a crucial movement away from violence, as the only option for threatened groups towards peace. But only if they are not hidden by journalistic assumptions that they are irrelevant, and should not be reported. This is of special concern, given that the collective trauma suffered by a population, and the fear that this generates, can lead to a reduced capacity for decision making and action.
In response to war journalism’s value bias in favour of violence, peace journalism promises two key benefits: for those concerned with objectivity in journalism, it aims to avoid and counteract the persistent bias of valuing violence and violent parties. Secondly, as all journalism must in some way appeal to the values of their audiences, for those who value the promotion of peace and social justice over violence, it provides a practical methodology.
The ‘fixation of meaning’[clarification needed] in war journalism is often hidden by the “scattered opposition facts” that often occur in its coverage. However these do not actually allow for “challenging a dominant frame” of pro-violence: ‘Framing’ researcher Entman recommends: “If educated to understand the difference between including scattered oppositional facts, and challenging a dominant frame, journalists might be better equipped to construct news that makes equally salient—equally accessible to the average, inattentive, and marginally informed audience—two or more interpretations of problems.”
Hence, peace journalism is anchored in Conflict Analysis and Peace Research “to map out solid ground beneath our feet; to declare, in advance, that we intend to use it, to assign meanings and draw distinctions.” Decisions, on which of the almost infinite stories and facts to report, can be made openly and systematically.
Lynch (2008) shows how these two disciplines are important anchors for conflict journalism in that they employ the academic rigor of the social sciences including: “openness about – and prepared to justify – starting assumptions for both observation and interpretation; and peer review. Built into social science, moreover, is an allowance for the participant-observer effect – as soon as you start to observe something, you cannot avoid changing it.”
As such peace journalism considers the effect it has on audiences and parties with regard to it own “objectivity”. Lynch and Galtung (2010) elaborate on how this operates in conflict journalism: “‘It is an important distinction in this context because journalism itself may be part of the extended pattern of conflictual relationships, in which parties and their shared relations find themselves embedded – if only by bringing an audience to the ringside.
Tillett comments: ‘In some situations, individuals (or groups) will ‘fight to the death’ (even when obviously losing all that they claim to be seeking) to avoid being seen to ‘back down’ or ‘lose face’ ‘ (1999, p. 29). In a conflict, he continues, “the presence of an audience generally makes it more likely that the protagonists will want to be seen to win, and that they will be less prepared to resolve than to fight’. Schattschneider goes as far as to argue that spectators are ‘an integral part of the situation for, as likely as not, the audience determines the outcome of the fight’(1960, p.2)
Conflict Analysis also provides guidance on mapping the hopes, needs, and fears of all parties to a conflict, including outwardly “impartial” third parties; and acknowledges the potential role of creativity, rather than assuming as war journalism does, that the positions of elites, power gradients and the struggle for power are the most important determinants of a conflict.
These can then be assessed empirically in the conflict, and its potential resolution, rather than being ignored from the outset by journalists, as often is the case in war journalism. Therefore the importance in peace journalism of being willing to consider conflict as “open in space and time, with causes and exits anywhere”. Lynch and Galtung (2010) present an important example of this in the case of North and South Korea, indicating that journalists should not ignore the grassroots people that endure this conflict, and that comparisons and input from the reunified Germany may be helpful, as could consideration and dialogue with East Asia.
The aim here is not to impose definite “answers”. Conflict Analysis and Peace Research often elicit useful perspectives from those involved in the conflict. Empirical questions can then be put forward, and tested by investigative journalism.
These processes demonstrate that conflict is not static and intractable. These insights challenge the psychological tendencies of war journalism noted above to present negative outgroup behaviour as the result of stable group characteristics. Indeed the non-linear cycle of violence outlined by Elworthy and Rogers (2002), proposes that the key stage to prevent a cycle of revenge, is before the anger becomes bitterness. And peace journalism can allow for the consideration that “bitterness can be thought of as anger + memory[…]storing away trauma in a ‘trauma bank’ and, eventually, withdrawing it as ‘glory’ through further violence”.
Through reporting, which does not routinely ignore causes and non-linear cycles of violence, peace journalism can help expand the cognitive and emotional space for peace initiatives that contribute peacebuilding.
The Feedback Loop of cause and effect in the media could then support the creation and continuation of peaceful process-structures . This would involve demonstrating a pattern of coverage that leads present and potential peace actors to predict that their efforts will be reported by journalists to “create opportunities for society at large to consider and value non-violent responses to conflict”.
This in turn could reduce negative inter-group social-psychological tendencies. This may be particularly important for projects such as the examples in Israel/Palestine of the ‘Hand in Hand’ network of schools, ‘Peace Now’, ‘Breaking the Silence’, ‘Physicians for Human Rights’, ‘Machsom Watch’ and ‘Checkpoint Watch’, which as mainly grassroots initiatives, are generally more fragile than mid level or upper level peace activities.
As a pedagogical practice, peace journalism training often uses pairs of war journalism and peace journalism reports to illustrate how the same story can be reported in either style, and that there is the potential to produce peace journalism within the time and travel constraints of mainstream journalism.
The unfair treatment of western media towards Islam and Muslims is not new to many people. The biased reporting, stereotype stories and hidden hate towards Muslims of the world are facts of western journalism. These champions of the free world who claim that their reporting standards are very high, they are honest and feel responsible to provide correct information to their audiences are in fact, have dual standards of reporting. They intentionally dramatize a situation in order to market their programs and increase their market share at any cost. They are not honest when a news item or a story involves a practicing Muslim or religion of Islam.
The Muslims of North America, Europe and Australia have been under a constant threat from these media organizations. These media organizations including all TV network, most of the Radio stations and all-major newspapers of North America, Europe and Australia have been controlled / influenced by special interest groups.
These special interest groups through the western media are not only misleading the people of North America, Europe and Australia but also trying to build walls between Islam and the people of other faiths such as Christians and Jews.
These media organizations are purposely creating a very wrong image of Islam and Muslims. The main objective of these media organizations is to create, through their own judgments, such a horrible image of Islamic teachings that the people in the west not only consider Islam as a threat towards western cultures but also feel threatened by the Muslims.
A common person who is very busy to fulfill his / her economic and social needs and does not have time to investigate the situation, heavily depends upon the media reporting. If TV, Radio and the Newspapers are not honest in their reporting then the listeners or the readers of western media will not be able to get the truth.
Rather, it creates misunderstanding among the various religious and ethnic groups, which creates animosity, hate and intolerance for each other. The Muslim minority of North America, Europe and Australia has been suffering from this unfair and very biased treatment of the media for a long time.
Muslims get terrorized by Western Media Circus
Every time when an incident of terrorism happens anywhere in the world the Muslims living in Western World specially in North America gets terrorized by the horrors of the news media. The way newscasters on radio and TV broadcast and print media prints the news, it’s always very clear that all these newscasters and reporters not only try very hard to find a Muslim name to be associated with the incident.
These journalists who portray themselves as the champions of humanity and professionalism become so unprofessional and inhuman that sometime they do not realize the outcome of their hurried and rushed reporting.
The Western mainstream media circus apply a policy of controlled news reporting on their domestic problems and at the same time they apply the lies and biased news reporting on international affairs especially on Islam, the Muslim World, the Middle East Conflict and international terrorism.
The western Media circus’ biased news reporting are terrorizing people with unbalanced news and lies that create fear and xenophobia. Terror is the most dreaded weapon in modern age and the Western media is mercilessly using it against its own people. It can add fear and helplessness in the psyche of the people of Europe and the United States. It means that what the enemies of the United States cannot do, its media is doing that.
The Zionist-controlled Western Media circus‘ biased news reporting on Islam, the Muslim World, the Middle East conflict and international terrorism create fear and xenophobia. This situation leads to more xenophobia including Islamophobia in the US and the other Western Countries that influence not only the general public but also the government officials in the individual western countries.
These media circus members that include electronic (TV Stations and Radios) and print media are the most powerful Hate Propaganda Machines Against Islam and the Muslim world!
If the terrorist attack anywhere on this planet was perpetrated by a Muslim, Fox News, CNN, BBC AND THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE WESTERN MEDIA CIRCUS would be working overtime with breaking news almost every minute, COMPLETE SILENT or SO LITTLE IS SAID in the western media circus news reporting when the terrorists are Christian, Zionist, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist fundamentalists or extremists …They simply call the perpetrators as Right-wing extremists or right-wing nuts, paranoid schizophrenic persons or a deranged persons.
“The current state of the news media is partially to blame for the public’s general lack of information vital for responsible citizenship in a democracy. The news media has become an aspect of show business, offering merely infotainment. It has evolved into an entity that tends to function as a public relations agency for wealthy and powerful multinational corporations, members of Congress, the current Presidential Administration including the administrations that preceded it. The news media is being utilized as a political tool of suppression and propaganda by those in power, and propaganda is psychological in nature. Full of half-truths and utter misinformation, it’s an arrogant and very commercial strategy that is implemented because it appeals to emotions, fear being the main one relentless talk of national security, personal and community safety, can trigger childhood insecurities and indoctrinated views of authority.” – Teresa Stover
John Swinton New York journalist at a banquet (1880′s): “What folly is this, toasting an independent press? There is no such thing, at this date of the World’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon [Biblical ref.], and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of “rich men” [Biblical ref.] behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”
Western Bias and Double Standards
THE US-LED WESTERN MEDIA CIRCUS DOUBLE STANDARDS IS VERY MUCH THE SAME AS THEIR GOVERNMENTS DOUBLE STANDARDS POLICIES
Here are some of the Zionist-controlled Western media circus “BIASED” or “IDIOTIC” Interpretation Standards ON TERRORISM, REVOLUTION, REVOLUTIONARIES, A DICTATOR, A DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED LEADER, STATE TERRORISM and AGGRESSION.
If a terrorist suspect is a Muslim = Muslim terrorist
If a terrorist suspect is a Christian = Right-wing nut
Israeli state terrorism = Self defense
Palestinian resistance and freedom fighting = Palestinian terrorism
The US state terrorism = War on terror
A dictator friendly to the US-led western civilization regimes = A democratically elected leader.
A democratically elected president, but unfriendly to the US-led western civilization regimes = A dictator.
The US aggression = Intervention to liberate local citizens from a dictator.
Revolutionaries (with US interests) = Freedom Fighters
Revolutionaries (against US interests) = Terrorists
When u attack White people, they call it Racism.
When u attack Jewish people, they call it Anti-semitism
When u attack ur country, they call it treason.
When u attack ur religious sect, they call it hate.
But, When u attack the Muslim countries, they call it War on Terror;
When u attack the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, they call it FREEDOM of SPEECH and When u produce a mocking caricature of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, they call it FREEDOM of EXPRESSION. (HSH)