Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Nelson Mandela Peace Summit
I was honored to be invited by the UN to participate in the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit next Monday in New York. The summit’s being held a day before the start of the 73rd session of the General Assembly.

According to the UN, “The focus of the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit is on Global Peace in honour of the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela. This Peace Summit offers the opportunity for world leaders to renew their commitment to global peace, conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, promotion and protection of human rights and long-term development initiatives as called for by the Secretary-General. The Peace Summit will also adopt a political declaration, which will reaffirm the values of Nelson Mandela.”

Stay tuned—I’ll be writing about this next week.

International Day of Peace: Peacebuilder Heroes
To celebrate the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, I’m writing/Tweeting/Facebooking about some people I know who I consider the unsung heroes of peacebuilding. These heroes include:

#PeaceDay Hero: @glorialaker is the founder of the #PeaceJournalism Foundation of East Africa (in #Uganda). She’s taught/mentored 100’s of journalists, and is a role model especially for aspiring female reporters. Her work has been recognized/honored by @bbc : . #ParkPeace

#PeaceDay Heroes: #Cameroon Community Media Ntwk (@ccmn) works with reporters, radio promoting #peacejournalism & peaceful communities. Their heroes are Rose Obah, Alex Vojvoda @atzo, staff at CBS radio/Buea.#ParkPeace

#PeaceDay Heroes: @VanessaBassil and Media Assn for Peace-Lebanon @map_lb, who are working to educate youth abt #peacejournalism, peace/gender, peace/environment, etc.

#PeaceDay Heroes: Tom Patterson, Janette Jasperson @jccctweet, founders of Greater #KC Peacebuilding Conference.  #ParkPeace

#PeaceDay Heroes: @johangaltung, @ProfJakeLynch, the grandfather/father of #peacejournalism and ongoing forces for good in the world. #ParkPeace

#PeaceDay Heroes: The late #ShujaatBukhari & the dedicated staff @RisingKashmir nwsppr, which bravely carries the torch, legacy of Bukhari, & his commitment to peace

Thursday, September 6, 2018

"Fake News" is inflammatory propaganda. Let's stop using it.
If you’re like me, you groan every time you hear the term “fake news.” My first instinct is to ignore it and hope it goes away, but that’s not working too well lately thanks to a barrage of negative stories about the White House.

So if ignoring this won’t work, what’s a peace journalist to do?

For starters, journalists should take the advice of writers like Daniel Funke, who advises on that reporters should "stop calling everything fake news." I’d go further, and add that we should stop using the term altogether unless we’re directly quoting someone. Why should we just say no to this phrase?  According to Poynter, using the term has important consequences:

“In a study published Aug. 15, Emily Van Duyn and Jessica Collier of the University of Texas at Austin found that, when people are exposed to tweets containing the term “fake news,” their ability to tell real from fraudulent stories decreases. Those findings were based on a Mechanical Turk survey of 299 U.S. adults between April and December 2017.” Thus, the more we use the term, the more we aid those who seek to sow confusion.

Peace journalism teaches us that words matter, especially inflammatory ones. “Fake news” has taken on a transcendent form which goes well beyond merely reporting that isn’t factual. The political baggage the term carries makes it inflammatory and confusing, and that’s why I believe we should avoid or eliminate it.

So what should we say instead of “fake news”? The Poynter article recommends using terms like “misinformation,” “disinformation,” “hoax,” and “malinformation.”

The term is more than just inflammatory. Peace journalism also advises journalists to reject both propaganda and “us vs. them” narratives. The phrase “fake news” was created as a clever propaganda tool by those who seek to discredit the news media. Thus, every time journalists use the term, they’re rewarding the propagandists. The term “fake news” also creates a false “us vs. them” narrative pitting “real Americans” (as defined by the White House) against the greedy, reckless “mainstream” media.

By avoiding or marginalizing the term, we can perhaps begin to open up a necessary, broader discussion across political boundaries about news media accuracy and bias. This kind of cross-boundary, common-ground-seeking discussion is exactly what peace journalism promotes.

For more on Fake News:

Monday, August 27, 2018

Reminder: The Peace Journalist
Reminder that submissions for the Peace Journalist magazine are due Sept. 7. We seek submissions on peace journalism initiatives, research, etc. However, we do not seek general submissions about peace projects, unless they entail a media angle. Submissions should be 500-1500 words, and sent to me at by Sept. 7. Photos are welcome.

You can view the previous edition (April 2018) on Issuu at:

You can also download a .pdf copy of the magazine by clicking this link. For more about the magazine, and our Center for Global Peace Journalism, please see

Chart-News Bias
I stumbled across this chart a few weeks ago, and found it interesting. I don't know that I 100% agree, but I do think it provides good grist for a discussion. Comments?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Boston Globe has put out the call to newspapers nationwide to publish independent opinion pieces today that counter the notion that journalists are “fake” and “enemies of the people.” My modest contribution to this initiative, below, has also been published online by The Kansas City Star.

From Kashmir to Cameroon to Kansas City, journalists aren't 'enemies of the people'
Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari  is not an enemy of the people. Neither are the dozens of Cameroonian journalists I met in July, or American journalists like Scott Simon or Laura Ziegler. Actually, these journalists and their colleagues are the exact opposite of enemies: they are servants of the people.

 As we know, community service usually requires some type of sacrifice. For American journalists, these sacrifices might include their peace of mind and having to endure the growing controversy and instability that comes with their vocation. Every day, journalists dodge insults and false accusations, and forge ahead with what must seem like a Sisyphean task of trying to educate citizens about the lives of the voiceless and marginalized in our society. For example, NPR’s Scott Simon recently produced a brilliant, emotional story about how forced separation affected one Guatemalan migrant family. This heart wrenching piece will no doubt be criticized as hopelessly sentimental and biased—the product of a “snowflake.” One can respectfully disagree with Simon’s story selection or the tone of his piece. However, I challenge anyone to listen to this story and come away with the conclusion that Scott Simon is an enemy of the people.

In Kansas City, it seems equally inconceivable that any sane person could think that the dedicated journalists at the Kansas City Star or KCUR-FM, for example, are enemies of the people. Who could believe that the Star’s Mara Rose Williams’ exemplary reporting about education (both K-12 and university), or her numerous tweets touting the accomplishments of the area’s students (“Lincoln College Prep Poets Finish in Top 10”; “Student Wins First Place in Photographic Technology”) position her as anyone’s enemy? The same can be said of any of the fine reporters and producers at KCUR like Laura Ziegler, whose recent insightful story about Tonganoxie, Kansas exemplifies journalism’s potential to serve local communities. Ziegler, Steve Kraske, Gina Kaufmann and their colleagues certainly are not enemies of the people.

While these American journalists feel like they’re figuratively under fire, journalists elsewhere in the world literally are under fire, justifiably fearing arrest, injury, or even death for doing nothing more than performing their duties. The “enemies of the people” rhetoric coming from the U.S. provides a convenient justification for authoritarian governments to crack down on journalists and journalism.
This is exactly what’s happening in Cameroon, where a paranoid government regularly abuses journalists. During my month teaching peace journalism in Cameroon, I heard dozens of stories of reporters who were threatened, beaten, and jailed for merely doing their jobs. In fact, I witnessed government intimidation first hand, as gendarmes swooped down on one of my workshops and shut it down. Instead of being intimidated by this raid, the Cameroonian journalists in my workshop became more defiant and committed to doing their jobs and serving their communities. Cameroon’s journalists are not anyone’s enemies.

Youngblood (l), and Bukhari (r, in white) at Rising Kashmir
Like his Cameroonian brethren, Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of the Rising Kashmir newspaper in Indian-controlled Kashmir, did his best to serve his violence- plagued community by producing journalism that rejected sectarianism and sensationalism. I met Bukhari while speaking at his newspaper’s offices in 2016, and we discussed Rising Kashmir’s necessary balancing act. In volatile Kashmir, favoring either the Indian authorities or Kashmiri protesters or militants could result in the paper being raided by authorities (as it was in 2016) or the paper’s staff being the target of violence.

As with his colleagues in Cameroon and in the U.S., it was hard for me to imagine how anyone could consider Bukhari an enemy of the people. Yet, sadly, this is exactly what happened two months ago, when an assassin’s bullet cut down Bukhari and two of his bodyguards in front of his newspaper’s offices.

Shujaat Bukhari knew better than most that words matter, and that inflammatory rhetoric  like “enemies of the people” imperils not only the practice of journalism but also journalists themselves.
One can disagree respectfully with journalists and argue that they’re biased. But spouting vitriol like “enemies of the people” ignores the essential  public service being performed by journalists, and disrespects the memory of Shujaat Bukhari and his 1,312 colleagues who have been killed worldwide since 1992. (Committee to Protect Journalists)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Audio: Trapped between two loaded guns
Cameroonian journalists say they're "trapped between two loaded guns." How can they stay safe and still do their jobs? Is peace journalism the answer?

New audio report: