Monday, March 25, 2013

Assessing U.S. media prior to Iraq War

The 10-year anniversary of the Iraq war has led to some interesting soul-searching among American journalists and journalism organizations.

Two of the most insightful pieces were published by CNN and the Washington Post. In the CNN piece ("Duped in Iraq war, has press learned?"), Paul Waldman gives an excellent analysis, including an insightful look at how the Bush Administration cleverly planted a "leak" about aluminum tubes to justify their propaganda. In the Washington Post article ("On Iraq, journalists didn't fail, they just didn't succeed"), Paul Farhi takes the most pro-media position that I've read on the subject, claiming that "failure" is a mischaracterization of the media's performance. He writes that thousands of pieces challenged the administration, but admits that all too often these articles/stories were buried either by placement or by sheer number of pro-administration pieces.

A more academic piece, "Peace journalism case study: US media coverage of the Iraq War", by Marianne Perez de Fransius, offers thorough analysis using a peace journalism framework. This is must reading for PJ academics and practitioners everywhere.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

State Dept media/terrorism project wraps up in Kampala

A 15-month Peace Media and Counterterrorism project is coming to a close today and tomorrow in Kampala, Uganda.

The project, which is funded with a $150,000 U.S. State Department grant, has brought together media and security/government officials in 12 seminars around Uganda. The goal is for media and government/security officials to build collaborative frameworks to combat terrorism. The participants at the Peace Summit today and tomorrow, all of whom have attended a previous seminar under the project, have praised the effort, and have reported improved and more frequent collaborations. These two groups many not love each other, but they seem to have a greater respect for one another, according to several attendees.

Among other activities at the summit, participants created a radio news story about the Peace Media and Counterterrorism project. (Click here to listen) Discussions were also held about the best ways to sustain the cooperation fostered under the effort, which was facilitated by the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University and the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa, headed by Gloria Laker (pictured left, assisting with script-writing).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ugandan officials, journalists pledge anti-terror cooperation

The world famous Tororo Rock, as seen from my hotel.
Pledging to work together, Ugandan security officials (police, army, local government) and journalists concluded a two day Peace Media and Counterterrorism seminar Tuesday in Tororo, in far eastern Uganda.

At the end of the seminar, the team of 20 participants agreed to form an organization to facilitate cooperation and collaboration on anti-terrorism efforts, especially those initiatives designed to keep the public informed and vigilant in this border region. They even wrote some bylaws for this new organization, and promised to hold their first meeting in two weeks. Very encouraging indeed.

Program assistant Gloria Laker and I hold one more Peace Media and Counterterrorism seminar Friday and Saturday, and then it’s back to Kampala next week for the project’s culminating activity, a two day summit.
Gloria Laker, imparting some words of wisdom.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Experts: Peace will prevail in Kenya

Tororo, Uganda—The majority of experts gathered here today 8km from the Kenyan border believe that peace will prevail in the aftermath of yesterday’s Kenyan election.

The journalists, government officials, and security officials at our peace journalism seminar here believe that peace will prevail for several reasons. First, they said that Kenyan security officials are much more alert and prepared than they were in 2007, when post-election violence claimed 1000 lives and displaced 250,000. Second, they said that the Kenyan people are fed up with violence, and committed to peace. When I taught in Kenya last summer, I witnessed this same impatience with violence and chaos. The Kenyans I met had a hunger for peace, and hungrily lapped up the peace journalism principles that we were teaching.

However, there is one journalist here in Tororo who still believes that violence will break out once the final election results are announced. His colleagues refuted this prediction by quoting statements from both of the major Kenyan presidential candidates who have vowed to peacefully accept the results. Let’s hope this is one promise that the politicians actually keep.

Kenyans deride international media coverage

On Twitter, Kenyans are striking back at what they perceive to be biased, sensational international media coverage of their election. (See my blog from yesterday) Two smart-alecky hash tags, #SomeoneTellCNN and #PicturesforStuart, are lampooning coverage that seems pre-ordained to emphasize the negative instead of trumpeting what has been a vast improvement over the 2007 election. Some of these snarky Tweets include:

--Dramatic! "@rimbui: Armed w/ MACHETE & spoons, Kenyan man destroys a plate of rice! Cc @stuartf24 #PicturesForStuart"

-- Mangled body found in bathroom. #SomeoneTellCNN #PicturesforStuart (The attached picture is of a dead cockroach).

-- #SomeonetellCNN: Foreign Journalists stranded in hotels as PEACE makes it difficult 2 do their job. #KOT

-- LMAO: Fires ignite in the kenyan capital as city residents make morning tea #someonetellcnn

--BREAKING: Foreign reporters clash in #Kenya amid growing scarcity of bad news. #kenyadecides

Meanwhile, Kenyan activist Sasha Kinney and her colleagues are compiling a list of what they deem “generally appalling global media coverage surrounding the elections.” See : .

In an email today, Kinney added that “we are thankful that global media does not get much play here in Kenya -- and national media has been really good! -- because it could have been seen as inciting violence, mostly for reasons Martin Scott outlined in : .”

One silver lining is that the reflexively negative, pre-ordained international media coverage of the Kenyan elections should provide invaluable ammunition for those of who advocate peace journalism.

...Steven Youngblood is author of "Professor Komagum: Teaching peace journalism and battling insanity in Uganda", and director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Miraculous election turnaround for Kenya

Tororo, Uganda—In this town 8km from the Kenyan border, all eyes today were on the Kenyan presidential election. The attention here isn’t so much on the result, but rather on whether this election will mimic the violent 2007 one.

As the day unfolded here, I spoke about the potential for election violence in Kenya with security officials and journalists who are attending the peace journalism workshop I’m teaching here. The consensus this morning was that there may be sporadic violence, but nothing as systemic or severe as the widespread bloodshed during the last election wherein 1000 Kenyans were killed and 250,000 displaced.

The consensus last summer, when I taught peace journalism seminars in Nairobi and Eldoret, Kenya, wasn’t as clear. There were lingering fears among the journalists that nothing had improved, and that the politicians and the media that fueled violence in 2007-08 hadn’t changed.

However, the Kenyan journalists with whom I’ve been emailing, Facebooking, and Tweeting seem more upbeat today. One journalist Facebooked, “Thank you Kenya for standing up for peace”. Others I’ve talked to are taking the same so far, so good stance.

There was one major violent incident today in Mombasa, where 10 policemen were killed. However, this was an attack by domestic Kenyan separatists and not related to the election itself (though it was timed for election day to cause more mayhem). Otherwise, three people were slightly injured when a bomb went off at another polling place. So far, not perfect, but a far cry from the awful chaos of 2007.

Of course, the headline on CNN is “Sporadic violence mars Kenyan election”. This, of course, is the opposite of peace journalism, since it highlights the violent and sensational. Given what happened in 2007, the headline should be “Miraculous election turnaround for Kenya” or “Kenyans succeed in conquering violence”.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss this further with my experts on site here in Uganda, and report back to you.

For more on Uganda and Peace Journalism, check out my book "Professor Komagum", available at

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Back in Uganda, seminars underway Monday; Hope for Kenya

I'm back in Uganda for the final three seminars of the peace media/counterterrorism project. For more details on the project, see this link. First, my colleague Gloria Laker and I will conduct two seminars in border areas, with an emphasis on how border security officials and the media can cooperate. Then, we'll finish the project with a symposium here in Kampala. Stay tuned for details.

BTW, for my poor snowbound friends in the U.S., it's sunny, 75 and beautiful here, as always. Sorry.

In other news, irresponsible, inflammatory comments are being made by politicians about Kenya's election on Monday. (see story) My best wishes for a peaceful election are with all the Kenyan people, especially my journalism colleagues who attended our peace journalism seminars last summer in Nairobi and Eldoret.

For more background, see NY Times article.