Saturday, March 18, 2017

Workshop: African PJ must offer counternarratives
(Kisumu, Kenya)—The importance of African approaches to peace journalism dominated the agenda of day two of a regional peace journalism workshop in Kisumu.

Dr. Fredrick Ogenga
This African-centered approach is called hybrid peace journalism by Dr. Fredrick Ogenga, founding director of the Center for Media, Democracy, Peace, and Security (CMDPS) at Rongo University in Kenya. This approach takes elements of Western journalism and views them through an African lens. Dr. Ogenga’s hybrid PJ approach features an emphasis on development and on offering counternarratives to traditional Western-style reporting that portrays Africa only in a negative light.

At Rongo University, hybrid PJ is manifested through a master’s program in Media, Democracy, Peace, and Security. The university also has a hybrid PJ club, made up of peacebuilding students. Also, Rongo U. will launch soon a campus/community radio station dedicated to peacebuilding. “We’re giving students an opportunity to tell their own narratives,” Ogenga said.

Other presenters on day two included Dr. Jacinta Mwende 
of the University of Nairobi, who discussed media, human rights, and social justice. She articulated several suggestions for reporting human rights, including: 1. No ‘us vs. them’; 2. No worthy or unworthy victims; 3. Report humanely during conflicts; 4. Explore all sides.
Dr. Jacinta Mwende

Professor John Oluoch of Rongo University then discussed how local (vernacular) language radio stations can enhance peace in Kenya. He suggests that media operate objectively, and embrace a model that stresses social responsibility.

The workshop, sponsored by Rongo University CMPDS, The Social Science Research Council, The African Peacebuilding Network, and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University,  concluded with a presentation by Victor Bwire of the Media Council of Kenya. He led a spirited discussion about media ethics and responsibilities. He said ethics, objectivity, and sound journalistic practice are needed if Kenyan journalists are to rebuild trust with the public. I closed the proceedings with a discussion of next steps, including uniting to form a PJ press club in East Africa.

For me, this workshop was a much-needed reminder that local contexts are vital if peace journalism is to take root. I hope this is the first of many such local-context regional workshops in East Africa and elsewhere.

--For more on the first day of the workshop, see the blog post below.--SY

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Workshop puts East African perspective on peace journalism
(Kisumu, Kenya)--“Do you want to make conflict worse or make it better?”

With that question, Dr. Fredrick Ogenga from Rongo University opened today’s  Peace Journalism Training Workshop. Attendees are from five East African countries—Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

I had the privilege of giving the first presentation about the fundamentals of peace journalism, including how peace journalists frame stories as well as the importance of avoiding inflammatory language. Then, the 15 participants and I discussed PJ’s utility in reporting elections (like the upcoming presidential election in Kenya in August) and in leading societal discourse about reconciliation.

Gloria Laker, founding director of the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa, followed my presentation with an insightful discussion of PJ and the LRA war (1988-2006) in Northern Uganda. She gave background about the war, and discussed the genesis of peace media in Northern Uganda. It began, ironically, with a military-founded outlet called “Radio Freedom.” Eventually, Radio Freedom morphed into a much larger, and much stronger signaled, station called Mega FM, which is widely lauded with sowing the seeds of peace in Northern Uganda. Laker said media-led peace efforts during and after the LRA war included feature reporting, teaming with NGO’s to offer peace journalism training, offering programs that discussed peace, and fostering cooperation among local, national, and international media.

Dr. Duncan Omanga
The last presenter of the day, Dr. Duncan Omanga from Moi University in Kenya, gave an excellent speech about PJ and terrorism. He analyzed terrorists’ goals vis-à-vis the media, and in the process introduced the audience to the term “violence as a form of communication.” A brisk discussion followed about what constituted terrorism, and about if journalists should use terms like “separatist” or “gunman” instead. Emphasizing the importance of this choice, Dr. Omanga said, “Labels have consequences.”

He concluded with four suggestions for journalists in covering terrorism:

1. Understand the logic of terror
2. Create media policies for covering terrorism
3. Understand the context of terrorism
4. Be sensitive to labels

The workshop is sponsored by Rongo University, The Social Science Research Council, The African Peacebuilder’s Network, and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University. Day two of the event is tomorrow. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

PJ pioneer Dr. Johan Galtung on short list for Nobel Peace Prize
According to Nobel Peace Prize Watch, peace journalism and peace studies pioneer, professor, and founder of Transcend Media Service Dr. Johan Galtung has made the short list of 32 individuals and organizations being considered for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

His nomination, from Prof. Richard Falk of Princeton University and the Univ. of California-Santa Barbara, states, “Johan Galtung has been the sort of dedicated warrior for peace that it seems to me the Nobel Prize was created to honor. By so doing, (this will) raise public consciousness of what must happen if we are to overcome the war system and enjoy the material, political, and spiritual benefits of living in a world of peace premised on the nonviolent resolution of disputes among sovereign states and respect for the authority of international law.

"For decades Johan Galtung has been an inspirational presence in the field of peace studies broadly conceived. His exceptional vitality and mobility has brought this message of understanding and insight into peace with justice to the four corners of the planet in a remarkable fashion that is truly unique in its educational and activist impact. It is no exaggeration to write that he invented and established the field of peace studies as a respected subject of study in institutions of higher learning throughout the world. As a consequence of his charismatic speaking ability and seminal writing Johan Galtung has reached the hearts and minds of thousands of people throughout the world, conveying the belief above all that peace is possible through the dedicated efforts of ordinary people..”

I have had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Galtung for my peace journalism book in 2015. We spent an afternoon eating pizza, sipping tea, and talking about peace, peace journalism, and the state of media. It's among the most fascinating three hours I've ever spent in my life. Dr. Galtung was polite, gracious, and humble. Even well into his 80's, Dr. Galtung is an intellectual giant. In fact, there were times during our visit that I noticed Dr. Galtung slowing down to explain things to me, not in a condescending way, but as a colleague and friend. His observations were insightful and profound, and integral to the success of my book. 

Whether he gets the peace prize or not, Dr. Galtung's work will continue to provide a much-need beacon to light our way through these dark times.

Upon posting this blog, I got a nice tweet from Dr. Galtung. Thank you, kind sir.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Peace Journalism approach needed in protest coverage
As the resistance to the Trump administration continues, with major protests seemingly every few days, some media outlets, faced with how to cover the resistance, seem to be lapsing into familiar patterns of coverage.

A recent mini content analysis of news about the anti-Trump protests shows most notably a gap among different media in the way the cover the grievances that underlie the protests.

A Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles about the anti-Trump protests from Jan. 20 to Feb. 20 showed that many stories discussed the root causes of the protests. Of the first 1000 articles that came up in a search, 389 discussed racism, 63 sexism, 44 Islamophobia, and 373 xenophobia. Thus, there were 869 total mentions of these grievances. Fox News coverage was different. During the same time period, for the first 1000 hits generated by the search, 157 stories mentioned racism, 16 sexism, 6 Islamophobia, and 125 xenophobia.   The total Fox mentions of these grievances fueling the protests were 304—much less than half the 869 mentions in the same number of newspaper stories.

This result, while not surprising, provides yet another justification for peace journalism, the first tenet of which implores journalists to examine the causes of conflict, and to lead discussions about solutions.

Also, media of all stripes seem intent on labeling the protests and protesters. The newspaper search showed mentions of protesters as angry (125), violent  (137), and bitter (14).  Fox also reinforced the stereotype of protesters as angry (158), violent  (165), and bitter (27).

Peace journalism encourages journalists to reject such superficial labels that reinforce stereotypes, myths, and misperceptions. Are the protesters more than just bitter losers, angry that their candidate lost the election last fall? Are isolated incidences of violence being overplayed and exaggerated, creating negative misperceptions about 99.9% of the protesters?

Indeed, peace journalists must provide depth and context, rather than just superficial and sensational “play by play” of events like protests, which after all are merely the visible surface manifestations of a roiling sea of underlying discontent.

In my book Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I encourage journalists to report counter-narratives that provide different perspectives on the protesters. One such example can be found in the Kansas City Star.

The Star’s article (Feb. 16) on the “Day without Immigrants” protest, for example, centered on Marisol Cervantes, who crossed a desert to enter the U.S. but now “lives in fear” of the Trump administration. 

In another example,, which features articles from three Alabama newspapers, profiles undocumented immigrant Cesar Mata and his impressions about Trump’s plan to build a border wall. 

If journalists are really interested in rebuilding their wobbly credibility, a good place to start would be with articles like these that offer stereotype-busting, contextual counternarratives that go beyond superficial labels and breathless “play by play” descriptions of protests and protesters.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Baldwin or Trump? Dominican newspaper can't tell difference
Call for proposals-Regional Peace Journalism Workshop

Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security, Rongo University in collaboration with the Social Science Research Council’s African Peacebuilding Network program

The Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security (CMDPS), Rongo University in partnership with The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is organizing a two day Regional Peace Journalism Workshop for Eastern Africa to be held at the Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security (Rongo University, Kenya). The workshop will provide training for between 12-15 media practitioners, journalists, and editors from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Burundi (radio, TV, print, and digital) in the key concepts and issues in peace journalism, including reflections on the role of the media in conflict mediation and peacebuilding in East African countries.

The workshop will include topics such as essentials of hybrid journalism, conflict, justice, and reconciliation. Part of the training will promote better understanding of three African philosophies of Umoja or unity, Harambee or togetherness, and Utu or humanity. It will also sensitize them to best practices in the adoption of a peace journalism approach as well as the ethics of reporting about sensitive issues, including acts of terrorism. Proposals of about 500 words should be sent to the project coordinator Dr. Fredrick Ogenga: before 25 February 2017. The local organizer will meet all the costs related to the workshop for successful applicants, which will include return air tickets, accommodation, and meals for the entire duration of the workshop.

Participants are expected to come to the workshop with samples of their work/reports, which will be discussed in a practical training session.

Dates: 16 -17 March 2017

Expected Output(s)

PThe final output from the workshop will be an edited e-book titled “African Peace Journalism - A Guide for Scholars and Practitioners” consisting of six chapters. Contributions will be expected from each of the instructors which include one practitioner.