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Peace Journalism and Media Ethics

The following analysis is from Volume 2, Issue 1 of the Peace Science Digest. 

Peace Journalism is an alternative to Western mass media and its prejudiced foreign affairs coverage, or what the authors call War Journalism. Peace Journalism advocates have pushed for alternative media methods and ethics to encourage greater conflict sensitivity in reporting.

Past studies have shown that much of the mass media coverage of conflict possesses four main characteristics of War Journalism: (1) the use of propaganda, (2) a bias towards political and economic elites, (3) a focus on violence, and (4) an emphasis on victory or the winner/loser mindset. This type of media coverage tends to create a biased picture of each conflict under consideration, oversimplifying what is happening to those involved.

Alternatively, Peace Journalism seeks to present a more sensitive style of conflict reporting with an orientation towards (1) truth—outlining the various parties involved in the conflict and exposing the suffering and cover-ups of all parties; (2) people—reporting the narratives of people from all levels of society, not just the ‘decision makers’; (3) conflict—focusing on the roots of the conflict to better understand the grievances of involved parties, not just the symptoms of conflict; and (4) solution—identifying nonviolent alternatives for dealing with the conflict.

Drawing on media theory (see table), the authors suggest that Peace Journalism is most compatible with the radical role that media can play in challenging oppressive social and political power structures, as well as supporting the new wave of mass communication seen through the surge of independent news networks, social media outlets, etc. According to the author, the core principles of Peace Journalism provide a foundation to build a universal code of ‘radical’ media ethics. Radical media ethics expand beyond traditional media ethics to better fit the globalized media landscape, making way for both professional and citizen communicators, expanding digital media technologies, and encouraging content that challenges the status quo. Due to Peace Journalism’s ability to challenge media norms and operate outside of mainstream thinking, the author argues that the ‘radical’ aspect of Peace Journalism is what makes it uniquely qualified to shape a new role for mass media, one that is better suited for an increasingly globalized world.

One challenge of incorporating Peace Journalism into mainstream media is the emergence of nonprofessional and online news sources. Nonprofessional and digital media are easy to produce and operate outside of any legal jurisdiction or traditional media codes of ethics. This can lead to the creation of false and/or culturally insensitive content, propelling the media into an active role contributing to propaganda, hateful rhetoric, and violence. Thus, prescribing a universal code of media ethics based in Peace Journalism becomes as challenging as it is important.

Normative Roles of Mass Media

Roles of Mass Media in Society: Interpretation of Media’s Obligations: Media’s Relationship with the Sociopolitical System:
Collaborative Role Media maintain social order Support stability of the system Media are willing and highly integral part of the system
Monitorial Role Media inform the public about all relevant events Media operate within the system
Facilitative Role Media actively support the development and thriving of civil society Media still operate within the system, however, contribute to reforms by helping different groups to gain a voice
Radical Role Media speak up against problematic aspects of the system Empower various echelons of society Media challenge the system and attempt to change or reform the sociopolitical order

 

Peace Journalism: A method of responsible and conscientious media coverage of conflict that aims at contributing to peacemaking, peacekeeping, and changing the attitudes of media owners, advertisers, and audiences towards war and peace. (Shinar, 2007).

Contemporary Relevance:

There was an awakening in newsrooms across the world in 2016. From the Syrian war and Brexit to the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, media organizations were facing a context within which traditional journalism is now in competition with rogue politics and communication bubbles capable of efficiently planting lies and misinformation into national and global narratives. The Ethical Journalism Network claims that “the free circulation of malicious lies, the ineffectiveness of fact-checking, the resilience of populist propaganda, racism and sexism and the emergence of the so-called post-truth era appear to challenge a fundamental cornerstone of ethical journalism – that facts matter for democracy and that people want to be well-informed when called upon to make potentially lifechanging decisions” (2017). Some blame the communication platform and ease of transmission provided by social media networks. However, a greater threat is the failure of media and social institutions to develop a set of standards and ethics to monitor the new media content, created both by professionals and by citizens. The article promotes a radical form of media ethics, based on the ideals of Peace Journalism, capable of stemming the tide of ‘fake-news’, propaganda, and demonization found in the daily newsfeeds tailored to those reading them.

Talking Points:

  • Peace Journalism has been shown to have specific effects on individuals and whole societies, demonstrating the widespread impact of journalistic methods and ethics and the conscious choice available to news outlets.
  • Audiences exposed to Peace Journalism have been found to demonstrate the following:
    • Increased conflict sensitivity
    • Lower likelihood to view conflicts in polarized good vs. bad, black/ white, terms
    • Increased levels of hope and empathy
    • Decreased levels of anger and fear

Practical Implications:

The broader implications of Peace Journalism are a demand for increased conflict sensitivity, a comprehension of issues between conflict parties and the individuals they affect, and a better understanding and awareness of the nonviolent paths towards conflict resolution or transformation. War Journalism is characterized by propaganda and oversimplification of conflict, demonization or favoritism towards one of the conflict parties, and a partial depiction of conflict events; these characteristics contribute to misinforming the audience. Considering the importance of an engaged, informed citizenry to functional democracies, more attention should be given to the pro-democratic principles of Peace Journalism that ensure audiences are provided with the pertinent facts and balanced conflict perspectives needed to create meaningful public awareness and deliberation. With such emphasis, Peace Journalism is better suited for strong democracies. The polarized political context in the U.S. comes with the opportunity for media organizations, elected officials, and members of the public to demand the higher standards of ethics found in Peace Journalism.

Citation:

Lukacovic, M. N. (2016). Peace journalism and radical media ethics. Conflict & Communication, 15(2), 1-9.

Continued Reading:

  • Peace Journalism: What is it? How to do it? By Annabel McGoldrick and Jake Lynch. 2000. www.transcend.org/tri/downloads/McGoldrick_Lynch_ Peace-Journalism.pdf
  • Ethical Journalism Network. 2017. Ethics in the News. EJN Report on Challenges for Journalism in the post truth Era. http://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/wpcontent/uploads/2017/01/ejn-ethics-in-the-news.pdf
  • War Polls Obstruct Democracy and Peace. By Erin Niemela. 2014. www.peacevoice.info/2014/09/29/war-polls-obstructdemocracy-and-peace/
  • The Peace Journalist – A free, semiannual publication of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University. http://www.park.edu/center-for-peace-journalism/peacejournalist.html
  • Peace Journalism: What Johan Galtung Asked the Taliban. By Liam McLoughlin. https://www.transcend.org/tms/2016/08/peace-journalismwhat-johan-galtung-asked-the-taliban/

Organizations:

  • Institute for Public Accuracy (http://www.accuracy.org/) – IPA increases the reach and capacity of progressive and grassroots organizations (at no cost to them) to address public policy by getting them and their ideas into the mainstream media. IPA gains media access for those whose voices are commonly excluded or drowned out by government or corporate-backed institutions.
  • PeaceVoice (www.peacevoice.info) – PV is a peace and justice public intellectual US op-ed free distribution service devoted to changing U.S. national conversation about the possibilities of peace and the inadvisability of war.
  • Transcend Media Service (https://www.transcend.org/#tms) – TMS is an online editorial updated weekly. It fulfills the three functions of action, education/training, and dissemination and is a medium for its members to practice peace journalism and deliver solution-oriented news and analyses in written or video format.
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