conflict & communication online, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2006
ISSN 1618-0747




Jake Lynch & Annabel McGoldrick, 2005. Peace Journalism. Gloucestershire UK: Hawthorn Press.

A journalistic idea in an editorial management became an international crisis. This was a new experience for the press (as well as the politicians) of Norway, and the freedom of expression/of the press got a new dimension and new challenges; all happened after The Jyllands-Posten in Denmark published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in September last year, and a small Norwegian neoconservative Christian weekly newspaper, Magazinet, published the same cartoons in January this year.
The editor's background for publishing the cartoons was "to contribute to a debate about the freedom of expression", but he admits he would never print similar cartoons of Jesus Christ.
This is an illustrating example of the journalists' responsibility, not only to their own society, but the whole world. The reactions from the Muslim world might have come as a surprise to the editor himself (who had to live under protection at a secret place). We observed the frustrations from the Muslim world towards the West, after decades of war, exploitation and oppression, with poverty and hopelessness as ever repeating and recognizable consequences.
All the violent reactions, from demonstrations of angry men burning Norwegian and Danish flags to attacks on embassies and Scandinavian business facilities; all of this happened in Muslim societies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, most of the events were of course thoroughly reported in the press week after week in January and February. Only a few of the reports went deeper into the conflict, its background and various reasons. It is yet too early to get a complete picture on how the journalists reported on the many incidents and issues due to the Muhammad cartoons. Two Norwegian public opinion polls concluded early in February that 28 % of the Norwegian people are more negative to immigration (from Muslim countries) than before the 'cartoon case'. It may be obvious that the press has not succeeded in giving a broad picture of the conflict. The journalists and editors have obviously not read the new book: 'Peace Journalism' by Annabel McGoldrick and Jake Lynch. This book gives a lot of conflict analysis tools for reporting not in favour of war and violent conflicts. A lot of research results on journalism almost all over the world unfortunately show that journalism most of the time does work in favour of war, although this is not what the reporters really wish.
Several studies on the media coverage of the war in Iraq and on the conflict between Israel and Palestine show the difficulties to separate between propaganda, patriotism and factual information in the time of war and conflict. Previous studies on 'media at war' describe these problems. We know that wars and conflicts themselves make big hindrances for the journalistic work, often the reporters participate in dangerous situations, it is difficult to identify lies or propaganda from the truth when you are regarding it from inside a restricted area, especially for those who want to report deeper and broader, beside the guns, behind the bombs and the grenades. Of course most of the journalists are interested in getting the best stories, but often the best stories are not the most obvious heroic or easy to recognize, or the story closest to the truth. But it is possible with the right conflict analysis tools to achieve more fair and constructive war coverage, to learn how to distinguish between propaganda, misinformation and information is described many times before, with different approaches, emphasises and focuses. Susan Sontag wrote about how we (in the western countries) regard the pain of 'Others' (in eastern and southern societies), Edward Said has shown the replacement of enemy images from communism and communists to Islam and Muslims.
In the chairs surrounding Professor Johan Galtung's Peace Journalism Table the group of journalists and media workers from 'Reporting the World' have come out with a new set of conscious reporting with a high awareness of what their journalistic work shall show the audience, the readers and the viewers: Peace Journalism in stead of War Journalism; peace/conflict-orientated vs. war/violence-orientated, truth-orientated vs. propaganda-orientated, people-orientated vs. elite-orientated and finally focusing on solutions in stead of victory. The writers manage to go deep into the many conflicts from different angles, and they ask more question than establishing well known 'truths'. This is of course the true nature of journalism, a pity though that so many journalists often 'know' the answers before asking them!
The book contains both the descriptions of actual media coverage on both previous and present wars and conflicts, such as the war in Iraq, the NATO bombing in Kosovo, the conflicts in Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan, the Philippines, South Africa. The reader gets both the 'good and the bad and the ugly' examples of propaganda and reality, how the journalists are being manipulated by different authorities and how creative reporters achieve surprisingly results of their work, just by thinking and acting differently than the main stream.
'Peace Journalism' gives tools to how journalists and media researchers can identify violence - and peace efforts - in the actual situation (and in the text), and also suggest the right medicine. The book is both a handbook for journalists in the field (though we could wish another, handier size for that purpose) as a source for media researchers. It even contains an appendix with suggestions on physical and psychological security for journalists covering violent conflicts. Because it is written by journalists with long lasting experience on reporting from such conflicts and from teaching students and journalist colleagues, the reliability on the subject peace journalism is high; the conclusions come from deep reflective experiences in the field! The chapters are followed by exercises that might help the reader to a higher level of reflection, and with the list of exercises it is very useful in educating journalist and media students all over the world. The list of internet addresses in the endnotes and the list of literature, give a valuable supplement for the researcher, the student as well as for any other curious reader.
It is an every day struggle for a journalist to report honest, fair and being as objective as possible. The book 'Peace Journalism' gives you the good ideas, the frames and utile advices - the tools - to succeed in your effort. It is indispensable for any journalist who is or will be covering conflicts.

Solveig Steien




On the author: Solveig Steien, born 1955, is a Norwegian writer and journalist, and she is in these days finishing her Master of Journalism in the subject Peace Journalism. She has been working as journalist in different media for many years and has been editor of a monthly magazine. She has also published three books of poetry.

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