Thursday, July 30, 2015

In Kashmir, journalists have to practice peace journalism
AWANTIPORA, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR—Today’s peace journalism workshop with university professors and lecturers from the region was punctuated with several interesting, revealing questions and comments. These include:

A. How can peace journalism be implemented? Media owners won’t want it because it won’t sell and because it isn’t sensational. This is both a good and common question about peace journalism. Media owners and managers everywhere I’ve taught share the misperception that audiences are drawn to only that which is sensational. Research shows that this is not the case. Among other studies, one conducted by peace journalism pioneers Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick  (published in The Peace Journalist magazine, Oct. 2012, p. 3), demonstrated that audiences in four different countries all preferred stories with a peace journalism framing to traditional superficial and sensational reporting. A second study by the Solutions Journalism Network echoes these findings, showing that audiences prefer stories with a solutions-orientation.

That being said, of course peace journalism is still a tough sell—just like anything else that seeks to upend the status quo.

B. We (Kashmiris) know who the oppressor and who the oppressed are. Why can’t reporters just say this? This question strikes at the heart of objectivity. I answered by stating that peace journalists, good journalists, are in the job of presenting facts and not reaching conclusions for our readers in our news stories. Oppressed, and oppressor, are subjective terms, I said, best avoided unless in a direct quote. We most effectively serve our readers, I noted, by giving a complete view of all sides of an issue, and letting the reader make up his own mind about guilt/innocence, good guy/bad guy, and oppressed/oppressor. 

C. Kashmiris have to be peace journalists. Conflict here is a daily reality, as hard-to-ignore as the thousands of Indian army soldiers and armored vehicles that seem to lurk on every street corner and under every tree. Thus, even the smallest spark, I was told, could set off a roaring blaze. Careless journalism here, reporting that isn’t carefully balanced or that is racist or unfairly critical of a group/sect/political party, can get a journalist threatened, fired, or even killed. Thus, peace journalism in Kashmir isn’t a nicety, but rather, a matter of survival for journalists.

Our session ended with a discussion of integrating PJ into university courses and curricula, a step many of the educators present seem interested in taking.

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