Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Mandela peace summit delights, disappoints
At the UN Monday, world leaders gathered for the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit. Somehow, I got invited.

Mandela Peace Summit, UN, Sept. 24.
Speakers included dozens of prime ministers, presidents, and foreign ministers, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Each presenter sang Mandela' praises, and urged one another to carry on his legacy. This event, designed to honor Mandela and discuss peace, occurred the day before the opening of the General Assembly on Tuesday (when world leaders laughed at Donald Trump).

The event was simultaneously uplifting and discouraging.

Many of the speakers were inspirational. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said, "The challenge of our age is to answer the question, what is it that we can do to convey peace, prosperity, and democracy everywhere?...Conflict has its roots in poverty, exclusion, and marginalization. We (leaders) represent the hopes of billions for a peaceful and prosperous world."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was equally eloquent. "We're all part of the same community. We must live in a way that respects and enhances the freedoms of others," he said.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty Intl, at the Peace Summit.
The day's most passionate speaker was undoubtedly Amnesty International President Kumi Naidoo, who stated his refusal to adjust to the continuing inaction, to "not adjust to leaders who espouse fascist narrative, to not adjust to bloodbaths, to not adjust to inhumane treatment of refugees..."

One theme emphasized by a half dozen speakers was the importance of multilateralism, and the folly of unilateralism--a clear shot at the U.S. president, though his name was never mentioned. Naidoo touched on this, as did the head of the African Union, a spokesperson for The Elders (a peacebuilding group), the Namibian president, and the EU Commission chair.

Collectively, it was reassuring to hear their speeches, almost all of which correctly emphasized the role of poverty, inequality, and discrimination in impeding a lasting peace. However, I was disappointed that so few speakers discussed or proposed concrete actions--let alone pledged to take action.

I wish I had these leaders as students. I would put them in groups, make them come up with a concrete action plan (with deadlines for implementing each action), and ideas for communicating their actions and goals to their citizens. If each country started with 2-3 attainable goals, perhaps some momentum could be built.

While the speeches were nice, lasting peace is going to take much more effort and commitment than a day's full of well-meaning oratories.
Mandela Peace Summit, UN, Sept. 24

Monday, September 24, 2018

A host of speakers, including a number of presidents and the UN Secretary General, are singing the praises and embracing the legacy of Nelson Mandela today at a peace summit named after the late South African leader. Somehow (perhaps mistakenly!), I was invited to this event.

I have been inspired by a number of speakers, especially the head of Amnesty Internaional. Also, Several speakers have taken shots, indirectly, at Donald Trump.

I'll be listening to all the fascinating speeches this afternoon, and have a full report on the Mandela Peace Summit in the next few days. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Nelson Mandela Peace Summit
I was honored to be invited by the UN to participate in the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit next Monday in New York. The summit’s being held a day before the start of the 73rd session of the General Assembly.

According to the UN, “The focus of the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit is on Global Peace in honour of the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela. This Peace Summit offers the opportunity for world leaders to renew their commitment to global peace, conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, promotion and protection of human rights and long-term development initiatives as called for by the Secretary-General. The Peace Summit will also adopt a political declaration, which will reaffirm the values of Nelson Mandela.”

Stay tuned—I’ll be writing about this next week.

International Day of Peace: Peacebuilder Heroes
To celebrate the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, I’m writing/Tweeting/Facebooking about some people I know who I consider the unsung heroes of peacebuilding. These heroes include:

#PeaceDay Hero: @glorialaker is the founder of the #PeaceJournalism Foundation of East Africa (in #Uganda). She’s taught/mentored 100’s of journalists, and is a role model especially for aspiring female reporters. Her work has been recognized/honored by @bbc : . #ParkPeace

#PeaceDay Heroes: #Cameroon Community Media Ntwk (@ccmn) works with reporters, radio promoting #peacejournalism & peaceful communities. Their heroes are Rose Obah, Alex Vojvoda @atzo, staff at CBS radio/Buea.#ParkPeace

#PeaceDay Heroes: @VanessaBassil and Media Assn for Peace-Lebanon @map_lb, who are working to educate youth abt #peacejournalism, peace/gender, peace/environment, etc.

#PeaceDay Heroes: Tom Patterson, Janette Jasperson @jccctweet, founders of Greater #KC Peacebuilding Conference.  #ParkPeace

#PeaceDay Heroes: @johangaltung, @ProfJakeLynch, the grandfather/father of #peacejournalism and ongoing forces for good in the world. #ParkPeace

#PeaceDay Heroes: The late #ShujaatBukhari & the dedicated staff @RisingKashmir nwsppr, which bravely carries the torch, legacy of Bukhari, & his commitment to peace

Thursday, September 6, 2018

"Fake News" is inflammatory propaganda. Let's stop using it.
If you’re like me, you groan every time you hear the term “fake news.” My first instinct is to ignore it and hope it goes away, but that’s not working too well lately thanks to a barrage of negative stories about the White House.

So if ignoring this won’t work, what’s a peace journalist to do?

For starters, journalists should take the advice of writers like Daniel Funke, who advises on that reporters should "stop calling everything fake news." I’d go further, and add that we should stop using the term altogether unless we’re directly quoting someone. Why should we just say no to this phrase?  According to Poynter, using the term has important consequences:

“In a study published Aug. 15, Emily Van Duyn and Jessica Collier of the University of Texas at Austin found that, when people are exposed to tweets containing the term “fake news,” their ability to tell real from fraudulent stories decreases. Those findings were based on a Mechanical Turk survey of 299 U.S. adults between April and December 2017.” Thus, the more we use the term, the more we aid those who seek to sow confusion.

Peace journalism teaches us that words matter, especially inflammatory ones. “Fake news” has taken on a transcendent form which goes well beyond merely reporting that isn’t factual. The political baggage the term carries makes it inflammatory and confusing, and that’s why I believe we should avoid or eliminate it.

So what should we say instead of “fake news”? The Poynter article recommends using terms like “misinformation,” “disinformation,” “hoax,” and “malinformation.”

The term is more than just inflammatory. Peace journalism also advises journalists to reject both propaganda and “us vs. them” narratives. The phrase “fake news” was created as a clever propaganda tool by those who seek to discredit the news media. Thus, every time journalists use the term, they’re rewarding the propagandists. The term “fake news” also creates a false “us vs. them” narrative pitting “real Americans” (as defined by the White House) against the greedy, reckless “mainstream” media.

By avoiding or marginalizing the term, we can perhaps begin to open up a necessary, broader discussion across political boundaries about news media accuracy and bias. This kind of cross-boundary, common-ground-seeking discussion is exactly what peace journalism promotes.

For more on Fake News: