Tuesday, September 30, 2014

October Peace Journalist magazine: Hot off the presses

The October, 2014 edition of the Peace Journalist magazine is here. This special edition addresses how the press handled (or, mis-handled) the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Also featured are reports from literally around the world--Mexico, Palestine, Libya, Kenya, Nigeria, The Bronx, Gaza, and Afghanistan. Click here for your free download. Please share with colleagues and friends.

The Peace Journalist is a publication of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University in Parkville, Missouri USA. Information on article submissions for our next edition (April, 2015) can be found on page two of the magazine.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Depressed but not defeated on Intl Peace Day
A friend and colleague recently wrote me and asked if I, as an advocate for peace, was discouraged by the avalanche of violence that seems to be engulfing mankind.

It would certainly be easy to be discouraged, or even to abandon the notion that peace is possible, given the new status quo in Ukraine, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, Ferguson, Missouri, Mexico, Syria, Gaza, Somalia, etc., etc., etc.

Against this backdrop, the annual commemoration of the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21 (http://www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/) seems futile—like holding a storm awareness seminar in the middle of a category five hurricane.

Yes, the big picture is awful. That’s why I choose to look instead at a number of small pictures that show pockets of peace breaking out all around the globe. 

Several examples of these peace outbreaks can be found in the September, 2014 edition of “Building Peace” (http://tinyurl.com/oc9dabb ), a publication produced by the Alliance for Peacebuilding (www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org) . 

One peace outbreak spotlighted in “Building Peace” is occurring in Congo. “Since 2010, a local Congolese organization, Fondation  Chirezi (FOCHI), has taken an innovative  approach to (accountability, justice, and peacebuilding).  FOCHI’s primary focus is to ensure swift, accessible, and free justice to rural village populations. Staff and volunteers work with local communities and within traditional structures to establish community peace courts called barazas.”

Another peace project is connecting Middle Easterners. “The Peace Factory is a nonprofit organization promoting peace in the Middle East by making connections between people on Facebook. The Peace Factory initially encouraged people to post a simple message of love from Israelis to Iranians. The campaign quickly expanded to other conflicted pairs (Palestine-Israel, Morocco-Iran, Pakistan-Israel, America-Iran, and so on).”

There are many such successful peacebuilding efforts. I have witnessed many of these efforts myself. In northern Uganda, real, measurable reconciliation is occurring after a tragic 20-year civil war. In Uganda in 2011, radio journalists joined forces to ensure that they did not fuel violence during the presidential election. The same occurred in Kenya in 2013. I’ve witnessed productive, cross border dialogue, again among journalists, in Cyprus. And I’ve even seen Lebanese politicians from opposite ends of the political spectrum do what many believed was impossible—they actually sat behind a table together and agreed on several important policy positions.

Also, the number of organizations succeeding in promoting peace is impressive, and includes the Alliance for Peacebuilding, Seeds of Peace (www.seedsofpeace.org), the Search for Common Ground (www.sfcg.org), and, humbly, the Center for Global Peace Journalism (www.park.edu/peacecenter). 

So, to answer my friend’s question, while no one could help but be depressed by the deluge of bad news, there are nevertheless plenty of examples of peace outbreaks around the globe. It is these outbreaks that provide me the encouragement and the impetus to continue working for peace.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nazi Propaganda Exhibit Offers Valuable, Timely Lessons

Among other factors, “press indifference” helped the Nazi party consolidate power in the early 1930’s in Germany, according to our guide at the National Archives-Kansas City’s exhibit of “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.”

The Park University peace journalism class toured the exhibit today.

It is exactly this press indifference to tyrants, war-mongers, and propagandists that peace journalism preaches against. Instead of simply parroting propaganda, peace journalists help the public identify propaganda and its purposes while offering news consumers a counter-narrative that relies on facts instead of distortions.

Once the Nazis came to power, they swiftly crushed free media, making it impossible to report anything that didn’t echo official propaganda. However, before the Nazis ascended to power, during the late 1920’s until they were elected to a Reichstag majority in 1933, the German press could have attempted to expose Hitler and his broken ideology. Why didn’t this happen? Our informative guide Ellen told my students that the German press regarded Hitler as a powerless nobody, a preposterous lightweight, before he came to power. This dismissive attitude had the gravest repercussions for Germany and the world.

Of course, the Nazis weren’t the first or the last to use propaganda. Monday in peace journalism class, we talked about how ISIS was using social media to spread their messages, and how responsible media should react to offer counter-narratives. Later this semester, we’ll talk about how the American media shirked their responsibility to not simply regurgitate administration propaganda during the run-up to the Iraq war in 1993.

The outstanding “State of Deception” exhibit is a must visit, and a vivid reminder of the destructive power of communication. In teaching peace journalism, I hope to offer my students the antithesis—an education in the power of communication to be constructive. 

--Follow me on Twitter @PeaceJourn--