Monday, September 19, 2016

Engaging with others on International Day of Peace
If you advocate peace, a glance at the headlines on any given day is enough to make you cover your face in despair and give up hope. A Google news search shows over 141-million hits under “war,” including recent headlines from Kashmir, the Philippines, Afghanistan, and, of course, Syria. Throw in 34-million more hits on “violence,” including Chicago’s murders and the New York bombing, and the hopelessness is easy to understand.

We don’t have to succumb to this despair. Despite our seeming powerlessness as individuals, there is still something we can do Wednesday, Sept. 21, on the International Day of Peace, to contribute in a small way to peace in our communities and in our world.

We could protest, and demand peace. A few years ago, I received a typed letter from a Park University alumna who, at 92 years old, still conducts a one woman peace protest every week. She stands on a busy street corner in Indiana every Saturday with a sign that says, “War is Not the Answer.” Here in KC, peace activists have protested against a south KC weapons plant, and in favor of justice for African Americans and Palestinians.

These protests, and the activists who peacefully engage in them, are admirable. If you’re up to the challenge, find a street corner, and channel our 92-year old friend.

Realistically, however, the majority of us aren’t comfortable participating in such demonstrations. For us non-protesters, there is still a way that we can encourage a more peaceful Kansas City.

On Wednesday, to commemorate the International Day of Peace, challenge yourself to engage someone from a different race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. In a city as diverse as KC, this is easily done by simply driving to a part of town that you usually don’t frequent. You could visit an ethnic restaurant or business, of which there are thousands in the area. Go to an African American barbershop, a Mexican bakery, or an Arab/Palestinian restaurant, and sit down with the owners or employees. What do they think, for example, of Donald Trump’s wall or Hillary Clinton’s emails? Do they feel discriminated against? Do they think their children have equal opportunities in America? Ask about their views on immigration policy, and on whether the U.S. should admit Syrian refugees.

At Park University, we’re taking this advice on Sept. 21, and engaging with a group of six Pakistani academics who will be visiting our campus. The Pakistanis, from a school called Sukkur IBA, are on a semester-long exchange program at Johnson County Community College. At Park, they’ll be meeting with students in three classes. In my peace journalism class, I’ll ask our visitors to discuss at length the media portrayals of a supposedly dangerous and terrorist-infested Pakistan, and to reflect on the recent flare-ups in the disputed Kashmir region. I’ll also be

interested in hearing their impressions about Trump’s candidacy. In addition, the visitors will be meeting with Park faculty and staff to explore our common challenges as educators.

We can’t change the depressing headlines by ourselves—certainly not in one day. But we can do our small part on this International Day of Peace to build bridges between communities, between people, through the simple act of beginning a meaningful dialogue with someone different than ourselves. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

CNN, Fox focus on refugee threat, not humanitarian crisis
When covering Syrian refugees, Fox News and CNN are reporting much more about the supposed threat posed by refugees than the continuing humanitarian crisis.

A Lexis Nexis study by the Center for Global Peace Journalism examined Syrian coverage using threat terms (threat, terrorism, terrorist, crime, ISIS) and humanitarian terms (humanitarian, suffering, relief, injured, pain, desperate, fear). On both CNN and Fox News, a majority of the coverage discussed Syrians as a threat, rather than as victims.

From May 1-Aug. 15, there were 66 Fox stories listed by Lexis Nexis under “Syrian refugees.” Of these, 49 contained the word threat (74%); 44 terrorism (66%); 45 terrorist (68%); 36 crime (55%) and 44 ISIS (66%).  In stark contrast, of the 66 Syrian refugee stories on Fox, only 3 contained the term suffering (4%); 0 humanitarian; 4 relief (6%); 16 injured (24%); 5 desperate (7.5%); 2  pain (3%); and 4 fear (6%).

CNN had almost three times as many Syrian refugee stories during the study period as Fox. However, like Fox, there was far more discussion of Syrians as a threat. There were 172 CNN stories listed by Lexis Nexis under “Syrian refugees” from May 1-August 15. Of these, 73 contained the word threat (42%); 61 terrorism (35%); 60 terrorist (34%); 68 crime (39.5%) and 88 ISIS (51%). CNN also had far less humanitarian reporting than threat reporting. Of the 172 stories, 5 contained the word suffering (3%); 9 humanitarian (5%); 10 relief (5.8%); 11 injured (6%); 13 pain (7.5%); 2 desperate (1%); and 16 fear (9%).

What these statistics don’t show is the tone of the stories about the Syrian refugees--if they are portrayed as terrorists or criminals, or instead as victims of incorrect, threatening stereotypes. Regardless of the tone of the coverage, the preponderance of the reporting is still dominated by a discussion about refugees as threats. Given the limited space in the news hole, especially during an election year, it’s not a stretch to suggest that one reason that the humanitarian coverage is so limited is because the threat narrative is so prevalent.

In Peace Journalism Principle and Practice (Routledge Publishing, 2016), I argue that refugee coverage can be better if it utilizes the tools of peace journalism, beginning with offering a more realistic balance between coverage discussing the threat with stories that highlight the humanitarian crisis. In reporting about refugees, peace journalists should avoid language and framing that reinforce racism, Islamophobia, or xenophobia; report stories that offer a counter-narrative to the distorted “Syrians-as-terrorists” narrative; and humanize refugees by giving their stories a platform.

CNN and Fox News can better serve their audience by adopting peace journalism as a framework for their reporting on Syrian refugees.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Last call: Submissions for Peace Journalist magazine
The deadline for submissions of peace and media themed articles for our magazine is Sept. 7. Scroll down to previous post that describes what/how to submit. Thank you.

South Sudanese journalist, family struggle in Uganda
My colleague/friend "Robert" and his nine family members have safely left the turmoil of their native South Sudan behind, and are working to start new lives in Uganda. (See previous posts below for more details). This is the latest dispatch from Robert, and it is disturbing, so much so that I have written to Ugandan friends in hopes that they can assist Robert and his family. I will keep you posted.

"Hi Steve,

Thanked God I have arrived  this afternoon 26/08/2016 in Kiryandongo Bweyale (in Uganda) after a long detention by the Ugandan police at the boarder point of Elegu between Elegu and Gulu in a place called Atiak since Thursday 25/08/2016 afternoon.

It was surprising to me as a refugee to be demanded 550 USD as border clearance fees for my nine family members whom you people have helped  to evacuate from the war torn country of South Sudan.

I was detained with the whole family the whole day on date 25/08/2016 and was threatened to be taken back to South Sudan not until i paid 1,320,000 UGX ($391) to the police who did not even write any document reflecting the amount of money paid to their office but only to released the family late evening making us to travel in the night yesterday.

On a sad note my mother has developed mental problems as a result of frustration and bulling that we experienced at the border, coupled with the situation we are in right now, In fact, it was beautiful when I received the money hoping to cater for many things, but now the situation has changed with all the but luck we have experienced. My mother is in poor health status as I write now... 

Today when I presented my family members to be reunited with me to get refugee status, people working in the office of the deputy camp commandant are demanding money. I truly do not know  how other journalists from this country of Ugandan can come in to help the situation? In fact it has now become worse in this refugee camp since on the first day I entered the camp. What I saw I could not be able to explain all thing here. otherwise Other South Sudanese have made their way back to South Sudan promising to go and die in their country with gun other than being undermined in this country."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Journalist, family continue journey to safety
My journalist/friend "Robert" and nine family members are continuing their journey from South Sudan to the relative safety of Uganda. See previous posts below for details.

As promised, here is the latest dispatch from "Robert" describing his journey:

(AT THE UGANDA-SOUTH SUDAN BORDER)--"I left South Sudan on Sunday 14/08/2016 at dawn time from my village to Nimule South Sudan- Uganda border. This was to allow me move a little bit when it was dark in order for security men not to see me moving out with the whole of my family all from my home because they would end up arresting me .On my way, there were a lot of obstacles from south Sudan SPLA and South Sudan police forces who could not allow many southern sudanese fleeing for their life to enter Uganda (because they were pretending there was) no war in south Sudan. This is very different from what people see on the grounds i.e., frequent cases of claches between the army and the rebels in other areas in South Sudan.

Meanwhile, a lot of briberies were taking places in order for one to be alowed to enter Uganda. As we were coming, we happened to meet more than seven check points in ln less than twenty miles of journey from my village. They  checking people entering to Uganda. All those checking had to be paid in order for one to get to the Udandan side of the country.

We met differen tarmy forces on the road namely Matiang Anyor forces. These are forces  of the SPLA Chief of General of Staff Paul Malong Awan. These are presidental guards all are deployed on the road to check civilians leaving thier homes for neigbouring countries and police of different catogories on the road who could not allow people entering with heavy luggage.

While traveling we were able to see abundant homes of the South Sudanese ethnic groups called the Madi and the Acholi people who have left their home for refugee camps in Uganda and Congo, leaving their goats and other household utensils now being used by the soldiers. Some isolated case was where I saw some  soldiers  chasing goats from some of the homes that were abandoned (until) they shot the goat using a bullet.

Currently, I have left my family at the border and am traveling back to bring them (after) I have manage to retrieve the money for clearence for the whole family including accommodations in town here.

In conclusion, cases of cholera and measles are high in some of entrance parts to Uganda, and  many family are also dying as a result of that.

This is some thing brief to share and will share more if (when) I settle."

Stay tuned for more updates from "Robert" in the next few days.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Journalist, family to begin journey to safety
Our journalist/friend "Robert" and his nine family members will be making the dangerous trip from South Sudan to Uganda this weekend. The two previous posts also have details about his situation. We were able to locate some good samaritans who are helping "Robert" fund this journey.

"Robert" has agreed to write a journal about his experiences, which I will share on these pages.

Here are the last two emails from "Robert":

Hi Steve,
I will be starting my journey to Uganda on Sunday 14/08/2016 and will keep you informed when i get to Uganda. I planned to begin the journey by Sunday so that it will not be very expensive in hiring lodge when it is a weekend days when the bank will not be functioning. 
Wishing you all the best weekend
yrs (Robert).

On Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 12:30 AM:
Hi Steve,
Thanks for the work welldone. Iam organising to travel very soon and will let you know if i reached safely. It will take me two days to reach the Uganda and will take for me  some two days looking for a house to rent in Uganda because i will need to get some two rooms for the family and then buy for them food so that they find thing ready. But I will keep you updated on a every bit of step in the process i will talk to you more when i reached
I greatly thank you for the struggle. be blessed 
Regards to all, yrs (Robert).