Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yes, Dear Critic, PJ is objective, achievable, vibrant

This reply is in response to a blog post from Stephanie Bosset, a photographer and journalist based in London, who “disagrees with the concept of peace journalism.” 
Dear Stephanie:
I’d like to thank you for your thoughtful post on peace journalism. While we don’t agree, there is certainly value in the discussion, and in the issues you raise.

First, like many critics of peace journalism, you misunderstand the role of PJ when  you state that “peace journalism starts to advocate for activism over impartial reporting.” In fact, this is not the case. Indeed, peace journalism’s principles embrace the traditional journalistic ideal of objectivity.

     In fact, this notion that peace journalists have abandoned their objectivity by openly advocating for peace is perhaps the most prevalent misperception about PJ. None of the literature produced by Jake Lynch, Johan Galtung, or the Center for Global Peace Journalism has ever suggested that journalists become open advocates for peace or for a particular peace plan. Instead, the literature urges journalists to put peaceful alternatives and peacemakers on the agenda—to begin a discussion.

     In their book “Reporting Conflict: New Directions in Peace Journalism,” Lynch and Galtung rebut what they call the “misconception” that peace journalists actively advocate for peace. “Peace journalism comes with no matching commitment to ensuring that violent responses get a fair hearing: as discussed, the action of the news filters ensures they seldom struggle for a place on the news agenda. On the other hand, if society is afforded opportunities to consider non-violent responses, and decides that it dislikes them, then there is nothing more that journalism can do about it, while remaining journalism.” ( )

You also state that “The methodologies prescribed by peace journalism are ideal, but also idealistic.” You’re right. Peace journalism, like true objectivity or 100% accuracy, many not be achievable in its purest form. However, the pursuit of this ideal makes us as reporters and journalism as a profession better. As my colleague Professor Shazana Andrabi (Islamic University of Science and Technology, Kashmir) so succinctly put it, “Idealistic? Yes. Elusive? Yes. Worth striving for? Of course yes!!!”

Finally, you list a number of logistical obstacles to implementing peace journalism, including time and resources needed to research more extensively, pressures by employers, danger and inaccessibility of conflict zones, etc. You are correct—these impediments are real, and make the practice of peace journalism difficult. As I have taught PJ around the world, my reporter/students and I always list and discuss the local obstacles, which vary from place to place.

Despite these obstacles, we have found that it’s always possible to implement some level of peace journalism even in the most difficult circumstances. So while resources and time may not be available to provide all of the context in a story that PJ desires, reporters attending my workshops say there is always time to get one more quote to provide a bit more context. Little things like eschewing inflammatory language are easy, and free. And even when politically charged media owners seemingly prevent journalists from balancing a story, reporters have found that it’s usually possible to add just one more quote or fact that makes a story a bit more balanced. Sometimes baby steps are the best we can do, but we think these steps toward the peace journalism ideal are worth taking.

These steps toward peace journalism are occurring around the world, in high profile outlets (New York Times/Nicolas Kristof, The Guardian) and lower profile outlets (Radio Pacis, Arua, Uganda and Rising Kashmir newspaper, in Indian-administered Kashmir). Non-traditional media (International Voices of Hope, U.S; Corresponsal de Paz, Mexico) also practice PJ. And a number of organizations have sprung up that are dedicated to spreading the peace journalism message and supporting peace journalists, including the Center for Global Peace Journalism (U.S.); Media Association for Peace (Lebanon); Pecojon (Philippines); and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (Australia).

Finally, I invite you to peruse the pages of the Peace Journalist magazine, which contain examples of PJ and PJ projects around the world.

Thank you again for this discussion.


Steven Youngblood
Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism
Editor, The Peace Journalist Magazine

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