When violence occurs, journalists of course must cover it. Peace journalism differs in that it encourages a discussion of how to responsibly report such violence.
One example is the awful events of April 2, when 147 people were killed in an attack at Garissa University in Kenya.
In perusing Kenyan newspaper front pages from the next day, a peace journalist would examine both the words and the images, looking for content that was needlessly sensational or inflammatory—content that makes a bad situation even worse.
One Kenyan newspaper, The Standard, uses the headline, “Kenya Unbowed,” which is defiant but not sensational or inflammatory. The front page image, of a soldier running with his truck in the background, is a curious choice since it seems so generic and unremarkable. Indeed, this stock-photo-type-image could have been used in any instance when troops are deployed. While it’s not a great picture, at least it’s not bloody or disrespectful of the victims as is so often the case when incidents like this are reported.
The Star uses a headline with the words “massacre” and “raid.” Both these terms, particularly “massacre,” are inflammatory, further fueling grief, hatred, and the desire for violent retribution. The Star’s page one picture, another non-descript shot of a soldier, is similar to the Standard’s.
The Daily Nation uses the best photo, one of the grief-stricken relative of a victim. This picture reveals the impact of the violence without exploiting or sensationalizing it. The headline “147 killed, 79 hurt in campus attack” is straightforward without exacerbating an already terrible situation.
Overall, these three Kenyan newspapers deserve generally high marks, from a peace journalism perspective, for eschewing sensationalism. It must have been tempting to use bloody pictures or screaming headlines. It’s gratifying to see these Kenyan journalists acknowledging on their front pages that the events of April 2 needed no embellishment.