conflict & communication online, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2007
ISSN 1618-0747




David Loyn
Good journalism or peace journalism?

This paper argues against the prescriptive notions of Peace Journalism, and in particular its exclusive nature and attempt to define itself as a new orthodoxy. Most of the paper is a critique of the work of Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick, in a book published in 2005, as well as their earlier Reporting the World series. They condemn all other ways of reporting as 'War Journalism, biased in favour of war.' I argue instead that the opposite of Peace Journalism is good journalism.
Much of this Peace Journalism argument is derived from the work of Johan Galtung, who accuses 'war journalists' of reporting war in an enclosed space and time, with no context, concealing peace initiatives and making wars 'opaque/secret.' Galtung specifically calls on journalists as part of their mission to search out peace proposals which might begin as something small and beneath notice, but which might then be picked up and owned by politicians as their own. My response is clear and simple: creating peacemaking politicians is not the business of a reporter.
I examine the traditional journalistic methods of using objectivity to get at a version of the truth. I concede that perfect truth is unattainable, (and paradoxically the tool of objectivity we use to get there is slippery too.) I conclude that a more quotidian truth, or 'truthfulness' is though a manageable goal. I engage with philosophers who examine objectivity, concluding with the assistance of Thomas Nagel that it does still have a value. Nagel's account also has the merit of explaining how practices such as peace-reporting are bound to be less objective than alternatives, 'since they commit themselves to the adoption of particular perspectives, in effect giving up on the ideal of stripping away as much…as possible.'
I examine the responses of the so-called 'journalism of attachment' framed as a desire of journalists faced by the horrors of Bosnia to cast off impartiality and emotional detachment and take sides in their reporting. I argue that holding onto objectivity could be a useful vaccine against the relativism of 'attached journalists'.
I conclude with a detailed examination of two case studies, Kosovo, and Northern Ireland, arguing that in these complex visceral conflicts, the solution to known problems is better application of old tools, not a new toolbox.
In the twenty-first century the world has moved on from the classic Clausewitzian vision of war as a continuation of politics 'by other means', to a situation where threats of asymmetric conflicts will continually wrong-foot diplomatic solutions, as they are normally constructed, as well as conventional armies - 'war amongst the people' in the new jargon. The tools of the reporter need to be sharpened not altered.


  full text in English  
On the author:
David Loyn has been a foreign correspondent for more than 25 years, mostly with the BBC. He is one of only two journalists to win both of Britain's leading awards in television and radio news - Sony Radio Reporter of the Year and Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year.
He has considerable experience of conflicts including Angola, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq. After a period as Delhi Correspondent in the mid-90's he was appointed the BBC's Developing World Correspondent based in London.
His book Frontline – the true story of the British mavericks who changed the face of war reporting was short-listed for the 2006 Orwell Prize. He is currently writing a history of foreign engagement in Afghanistan.

Address: Room 2505, TV Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ, UK. Telephone: +44 (0)20 8624 8458