Monday, August 10, 2015

Peace Journalism: One ingredient in Kashmiri peace recipe
AWANTIPORA, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR—As our last peace journalism class ended at the Islamic University of Science and Technology, one student couldn’t restrain himself as he asked me the million dollar/rupee question: How would you solve the conflict in Kashmir?
I tried not to answer flippan​tly, since the question is important. However, I was honest. I responded that after two weeks in Kashmir, that of course it would be impossible for me to come up with a solution that has been elusive to the world’s best minds since 1947.
I do understand the young man’s impulse, and the feelings of everyone here who want answers and solutions to this ongoing conflict. Indeed, I was asked repeatedly during my peace journalism classes if implementing PJ would solve the crisis here. The answer, of course, is that good, responsible journalism is just one of many ingredients required for peace to occur. This led to a discussion of Dr. Johan Galtung’s principle of “positive peace,” wherein peaceful societies possess the conditions necessary for all citizens to reach their full potential. Positively peaceful societies are those without discrimination, where access to quality education and health care are rights and not luxuries, and where economic benefits are equally distributed. Peace journalists, I suggested, have a responsibility to lead societal discussions about these elements of positive peace.

Aside from the role of media in achieving peace, the second major overarching theme of my seminars and lectures inevitably veered into objectivity vs. subjectivity, whether this involves language (martyr, tragedy, oppressor) or story framing (casting or implying blame). I was reminded how difficult it is for reporters in conflict and post-conflict situations to set aside their biases. If your brother or cousin or neighbor was harassed or even killed by authorities, how can you report objectively about this? Reporting without bias may not be possible, especially here in Kashmir. But, I said, reporting as objectively as possible, presenting all sides as much as possible, is still a laudable goal.

As I told my colleagues and students at the Islamic University, it was my good fortune to have the opportunity to visit this beautiful place and to learn about the opportunities and challenges in Kashmir. We are already planning future projects that will expand the scope of peace journalism here. Based on the support we received this month, it's hard to not be hopeful for the future of PJ in this breathtaking, troubled place.

SUBMIT TO THE PEACE JOURNALIST MAGAZINE: See link for details on how to submit an article for the October edition of the Peace Journalist magazine.

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