Thursday, March 16, 2017

Workshop puts East African perspective on peace journalism
(Kisumu, Kenya)--“Do you want to make conflict worse or make it better?”

With that question, Dr. Fredrick Ogenga from Rongo University opened today’s  Peace Journalism Training Workshop. Attendees are from five East African countries—Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

I had the privilege of giving the first presentation about the fundamentals of peace journalism, including how peace journalists frame stories as well as the importance of avoiding inflammatory language. Then, the 15 participants and I discussed PJ’s utility in reporting elections (like the upcoming presidential election in Kenya in August) and in leading societal discourse about reconciliation.

Gloria Laker, founding director of the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa, followed my presentation with an insightful discussion of PJ and the LRA war (1988-2006) in Northern Uganda. She gave background about the war, and discussed the genesis of peace media in Northern Uganda. It began, ironically, with a military-founded outlet called “Radio Freedom.” Eventually, Radio Freedom morphed into a much larger, and much stronger signaled, station called Mega FM, which is widely lauded with sowing the seeds of peace in Northern Uganda. Laker said media-led peace efforts during and after the LRA war included feature reporting, teaming with NGO’s to offer peace journalism training, offering programs that discussed peace, and fostering cooperation among local, national, and international media.

Dr. Duncan Omanga
The last presenter of the day, Dr. Duncan Omanga from Moi University in Kenya, gave an excellent speech about PJ and terrorism. He analyzed terrorists’ goals vis-à-vis the media, and in the process introduced the audience to the term “violence as a form of communication.” A brisk discussion followed about what constituted terrorism, and about if journalists should use terms like “separatist” or “gunman” instead. Emphasizing the importance of this choice, Dr. Omanga said, “Labels have consequences.”

He concluded with four suggestions for journalists in covering terrorism:

1. Understand the logic of terror
2. Create media policies for covering terrorism
3. Understand the context of terrorism
4. Be sensitive to labels

The workshop is sponsored by Rongo University, The Social Science Research Council, The African Peacebuilder’s Network, and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University. Day two of the event is tomorrow. 

No comments:

Post a Comment