Friday, June 29, 2012

Journalists pledge not to incite election violence in Kenya

Kenyan journalists won’t incite or fuel conflict during the March, 2013 election.

That pledge has been made by 37 journalists who have attended two Peace Journalism workshops this June in Eldoret and Nairobi. In these workshops, the participants, mostly radio journalists, have analyzed media’s central role in the 2007-2008 post election unrest, and promised to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

Peace Journalism seminar, Nairobi
At both workshops, which sponsored by the U.S. Embassy-Nairobi and coordinated by the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa, the journalists unanimously agreed that some Kenyan media irresponsibly fueled post-election inter-tribal violence in late 2007 and early 2008 that led to 1,000 deaths and left about 250,000 persons internally displaced. Never once did the journalists make excuses for those responsible for incitement, even going as far as to say that the radio station executive under indictment for incitement (crimes against humanity) by the International Criminal Court should be found guilty. I admired the journalists’ clear-headed analysis, even though their colleagues will go to prison is the ICC finds them guilty.

Peace Journalism Seminar, Nairobi
Aside from critiquing the media’s inflammatory role in 2007/08, the seminar participants also actively crafted precise, proactive media house guidelines/policies that reflect the principles of professional Peace Journalism. The principles reflected in their station policies include being careful to avoid inflammatory, emotive, and divisive language; balancing stories by including information from all relevant parties; framing stories in such a way to avoid “pouring petrol on the fire”; telling stories that give a “voice to the voiceless”; not letting politicians use media to spread hate speech or propaganda; and taking charge of radio callers and in-studio guests so that they are not allowed to incite violence or spread hatred.

During the seminars, these principles were applied in the field by the journalists, who produced excellent peace-themed radio stories. In Eldoret, the most compelling story concerned a local group that was staging a play to spread anti-election violence messages. In the Nairobi workshop, participants produced several stories that gave voice to peacemakers. One report was about using social media as a tool for peace during the upcoming election, while a second story focused on how religious leaders and everyday citizens are joining forces to ensure a peaceful election.

PJ seminar, Nairobi
I challenged the journalists to spread the message of responsible peace and electoral journalism among their colleagues and, crucially, to their media house management. All the well-intentioned peace journalists in the world can’t effectively eschew inflammatory reporting without the support of their editors and managers, who must realize that peace and development are desirable, profitable business models for their media houses.

If these new peace journalists can successfully engage their colleagues and their station's management, and if they continue producing peace-themed stories while systematically considering the consequences of what they report and how they report it, I’m optimistic that media induced or exacerbated violence won’t reappear next year in Kenya.

Steven Youngblood, director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University in Parkville, Missouri USA, taught the U.S. Embassy’s Peace Journalism seminars in Eldoret and Nairobi. Youngblood is a communications professor at Park University and two-time J. William Fulbright Scholar.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Answering tough questions on Kenyan TV; Super park tour

My colleague Gloria Laker and I appeared on “Good Morning Kenya” today on KBS-TV, the state broadcaster. We discussed our current peace journalism project, and the importance of peace journalism in Kenya given the media-induced upheaval that occurred here in late 2007 and early 2008. One tough but fair question: given that American media is so flawed, how can I come here and show Kenyans “the right way” to practice journalism? My response: Yes, American media is flawed, and often does not practice responsible peace journalism. No, I am not personally responsible for American media or its flaws. Yes, peace journalism can teach reporters how to more professionally report conflicts in the U.S., Kenya, Uganda, and everywhere else. No, I am not force feeding “the right way” to anyone, but instead offering journalists who attend my seminars a buffet of information from which they can select useful, applicable tips.

Our second Kenyan peace journalism seminar starts tomorrow.

Later in the day, Gloria (pictured) and I toured the marvelous Nairobi National Park, where we communed with giraffes, crocs, impalas, ostriches, and buffaloes. (Click here for photo album). I found it interesting that the park is literally on the outskirts of Nairobi, and thus is framed by apartment buildings and office complexes. Airplanes frequently soared overhead, illustrating a stark contrast between the ancient and the modern.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eldoret PJ seminar strikes raw nerve

As this week’s peace and electoral journalism seminar unfolded in Eldoret, Kenya, I had hoped to learn more about what happened here in western Kenya (and in the rest of the country) in 2007.

Editing radio stories on Thursday
About four and a half years ago, a disputed election sparked inter-tribal violence that left over 1,000 dead and forced over 250,000 to flee their homes. Much of that violence was centered in this region.

For those of us who study peace journalism, especially important is the role that radio played here in western Kenya in fueling the post election violence. In 2007, radio stations broadcasting in tribal languages spewed hate speech that, everyone agrees, degraded an already bad situation. In fact, one radio executive from this region is on trial at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. He’s charged with helping to inflame the violence in late 2007 and early 2008.

Group work at Eldoret seminar
In a seminar room filled with journalists, mostly from radio stations, I had hoped for answers as to how this had happened. My hopes were dashed as we began a discussion (really, a monologue) on the 2007 conflagration. Almost no one wanted to speak about the role that media played in fanning the flames. One journalist did explain briefly the participants’ reticence in discussing the issue. Essentially, the event is still too near, the wounds too fresh, the memories too painful to re-live. In fact, the radio executive being tried at Hague formerly managed a radio station that employs one of the participants in this seminar.

Teaching PJ in Eldoret
After some prodding, several journalists did say that they could now fully comprehend the errors that media committed which exacerbated inter-tribal violence in 2007. Now that these 18 journalists know about peace journalism, I believe that they will no longer engage in inflammatory speech, and will report in such a way that encourages peace and reconciliation.

Hilda (R) from US Embassy confers w/journalists
I’m worried, however, that 18 journalists may be too few to make a real difference here in western Kenya. As we wrapped up the U.S. Embassy-Nairobi sponsored seminar today, I shared those concerns, and charged the participants with spreading the gospel of peace journalism to all of their colleagues in the region. I just hope that the efforts of these 18 professionals are enough to prevent a recurrence of violence here after the elections early next year.

--Follow me on Twitter @PeaceJourn --

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

PJ seminar begins; Lake Naivasha delights

Peace Journalism seminar #1 is underway this morning in Western Kenya. We have a great group of 17 engaged journalists. We began our day discussing the fundamentals of PJ, and analyzing articles for PJ content. Looking forward to the next three days.

On the way here, we stopped at beautiful Lake Naivasha park (right), where we took an excellent boat trip and hike. For complete photo album of Lake Naivasha, click here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

PJ-counterterrorism project seeks lasting impact in Uganda

This weeks's training the trainer seminar in Kampala.
The four of us who have conducted the peace media and counterterrorism trainings this last month or so in Uganda have begun ribbing one another about our lessons and presentations, poking fun at my PSA, for example. We’ve had the most fun lampooning a presentation made by John Hamilton wherein he talks about pebbles making tiny ripples in a pond while big rocks make large waves.

In the last day of our last seminar today, Carol Getty, in an act that can best be described as “yanking the chain” of myself and my other Park University colleague Ken Christopher, insisted on giving Hamilton’s pond/rocks lecture. While I was watching, as much as I hate to admit it, I realized that the presentation was prophetic.

Training the trainer, Kampala
As we wrap up our Ugandan courses, I realize that John, Ken, Carol and I have thrown a number of rocks into some Ugandan ponds during the last four weeks.

Some of these rocks have landed in ponds patrolled by Ugandan security forces, the army and police. They came to our seminars with distaste for journalism and individual journalists, and a disdain for the professionalism of reporters. They did not leave our seminars adoring the journalists, but I believe that they did acquire a better understanding about the needs of journalists and the business of the profession. I am hopeful that security forces left our workshops with a bit more respect for journalists.

We tossed other rocks in ponds overseen by local government officials, called LC’s here (Local Councils). They came to our seminars with the same negative attitudes about journalists. Like their security brethren, I believe they left with a greater understanding of journalism and of the need to cooperate with journalists to disseminate anti-terrorism messages.

Training the trainer, Kampala
As for the journalists, they came in with low opinions of both security and government. I’m hopeful they left with a better appreciate the awesome responsibility security and government officials have in keeping the public safe. And I believe the reporters, and the journalism trainers who we taught the last three days (training the trainer), have a better understanding now of their role in working with public officials to keep Uganda safe.

What we don’t know yet is how far our ripples will travel. Our project coordinator Gloria Laker of the Peace Journalism Foundation will be conducting a comprehensive survey in a few months to collect data about the impact of our U.S. State Department-sponsored project. But as I’ve implied, based on the positive, even enthusiastic response from the 110 or so seminar attendees we’ve trained in the last month, I will be surprised if our work here doesn’t have a deep, lasting impact.

On a Personal Note...

I’ve taught 50 or so seminars now in Uganda, but these last six with my colleagues Ken Christopher, Carol Getty, and John Hamilton have been, by far, the best—the best instruction, the best feedback from students, the best discourse, the best everything. I screw up fairly frequently, so I will pat myself on the back for selecting these three outstanding Park University professors for my Uganda team. They were terrific instructors and companions. Thank you, Ken, Carol, and John.

BTW, colleagues, I am already planning our next collaboration.

(Photo: Ken Christopher, front; Carol Getty and John Hamilton, behind; yours truly, back left. Photo stolen from Ken Christopher's blog).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Diverse group leads to lively discourse

Participants plan, discuss
 This week’s first peace media and counterterrorism seminar in Kampala has brought together an eclectic mix of Ugandans, including journalists and those who work at facilities that might be at-risk for terrorist attacks. These facilities include schools, tourist and wildlife centers, and bar/restaurants. One of the participants represented a bar/club that was bombed by al Shabab extremists in July, 2010.

This was, by any measure, an engaged, energetic group, especially when they formed into teams. In these teams, the participants created a blueprint for a community security committee and produced anti-terrorism public service announcements (click here to listen). Their PSA’s were engaging, smart, and delivered important vigilance messages to the public.
Dr. Ken Christopher--"Get outta here"

Our at-risk facilities seminar was adeptly led by Park University Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Ken Christopher, who was assisted by Park Professor Emeritus Dr. Carol Getty.

Gloria Laker (white shirt) leads production

Like our other US Embassy-Kampala sponsored seminars, it is our hope that this group will continue to collaborate and cooperate in the future on anti-terror messaging.

--Follow our adventures on Twitter @PeaceJourn--

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hamilton conquers Uganda; next stop India? Pakistan?

If you’d never been out of the U.S., it’s understandable to think that you might be a bit nervous for your first trip to, say, London or Rome. Now, imagine the nerves if that first trip abroad were to Uganda.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Uganda, mind you, but for many who don’t know what a great place Uganda is, a trip there sounds a little scary.

This is precisely the situation faced by my colleague Dr. John Hamilton, a criminal justice professor at Park University who has spent the last three weeks here in Uganda teaching media/counterterrorism seminars with me and my other colleagues Dr. Ken Christopher and Dr. Carol Getty.

John Hamilton (left) with Ken Christopher
I must confess to being a little worried about how John would handle the culture shock. It turns out that he was born for international travel. Even though it was his inaugural trip abroad, John handled everything like an old pro. He was seemingly unaffected by the vicissitudes of travel. Here, those include tedious car rides, bumpy, dusty roads, skipped meals, repetitive lunch buffets, showers with the water pressure of knotted hoses, and 5:00 a.m. wake up calls from annoying roosters.

Not only was John good natured, he was curious about everything, especially the food. He tried kudu (antelope) and ostrich and matooke (steamed plantains—not his favorite). He even tried the “beef” on the lunch buffet at one of our seminars. Also not his favorite. There were lots of things he did like, however, like the local beer (Nile) and the local fish (tilapia).

It was fun for me to watch John (and Carol and Ken) really get into teaching, pouring themselves into lessons and opening themselves up to our students. After one seminar, a participant came up to me and thanked me for “selecting such great teachers to bring with you to Uganda.” I do feel pretty smart for asking them to participate in this project, which is sponsored by the US Embassy-Kampala and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University.

John leaves Sunday and heads back to Kansas City. (Ken, Carol, and I have two more seminars here). Bon voyage, John.

Now that John's a veteran traveler, we'll soon be planning our next overseas project together. I wonder if he's ready for India or Pakistan. I hear Islamabad is lovely this time of year.

(Click here to see John's Uganda blog. For Ken Christopher's blog, click here).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Military, journalists set aside hostilities

Dr. Carol Getty in action
To no one’s surprise, the army guys don’t much like the way that the journalists report about them, and the journalists aren’t especially enamored with the way that the army withholds information from reporters.

 This meeting between military and journalists could be taking place at Fort Leavenworth or anywhere else where media mix with soldiers. It just so happens that this particular get-together is in Fort Portal in Western Uganda.

Dr. Ken Christopher
 The meeting—a seminar on peace media and counterterrorism—brought together 21 representatives from media, police, and the army (UPDF-Ugandan Patriotic Defense Forces). The army participants were public information officers and others who interact with the media.

 The exchange between the media reps and security officials was animated on the first day particularly as each side poked at the other’s sore spots: a media that sometimes favors sensationalism over fact-based reporting, and a security force that isn’t as forthcoming as it could be with reporters.

By the third day of the seminar, sponsored by the US Embassy-Kampala and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University, the participants had come together to produce an anti-terror radio PSA and a plan to work together in the future.

 It will be interesting to see if and how the media reps and security folks join forces in the future to combat violent extremism. There was certainly a more formal atmosphere at this seminar (compared to our six other seminars). Participants did speak out, although my colleagues (Carol Getty, Ken Christopher, John Hamilton) and I noticed a reluctance to speak that was not evident at our other seminars. Christopher pointed out that in other seminars he’s taught, participants were sometimes reluctant to speak in front of high ranking individuals, like the UPDF officers and resident district coordinator who were present at this seminar. I think Prof. Christopher's right.

 If nothing else, getting the security officials and reporters in the same room talking to one another, and hearing them acknowledge their shared commitment to keeping Ugandans safe, gives me hope that they will better collaborate in the months ahead.

Radio Active

Prof. John Hamilton on the air in Fort Portal, Uganda
Our stay in Fort Portal included a stint as guests on a talk program on VOT radio. The wide ranging discussion included banter about our seminar as well as more general discussions about government, the right to protest, and women’s rights.

As the show concluded, the host asked me a question about whether Ugandan President Museveni had stayed in office too long. Before I could answer, the producer indicated that time was up. Saved by the bell!

Follow daily updates on our Ugandan adventure on Twitter @PeaceJourn .

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Two peace media/antiterror seminars conclude in Kampala

PSA production with Gloria Laker
 Under the cloud of a terrorist attack in neighboring Kenya (see previous post below), we completed two workshops this week for government/security officials and media. One of their assignments was to produce a public service announcement with an anti-terrorism message. (Click here to listen). These turned out great thanks to hard work and collaboration. Next week, our project, sponsored by the Center for Global Peace Journalism and the U.S. Embassy-Kampala, moves to western Uganda.

Dr.  Carol Getty
Producing anti-terror PSA