conflict & communication online, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2013
ISSN 1618-0747




Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, Jake Lynch & Robert A. Hackett (eds.) (2012). Expanding peace journalism: Comparative and critical approaches. Sydney, AU: Sydney University Press. 390 pp.

Expanding peace journalism: Comparative and critical approaches is a volume that gives seventeen distinguished scholars a platform on which to share their experiences, research findings and perspectives on peace journalism. As Johan Galtung affirms in the preface, ‘[It] is a testimony to the need for empirical, critical and constructive scrutiny of media’. Including a dozen chapters, the book is organized in three parts that focus on the conceptual framework of peace journalism, provide case studies and discuss opportunities and ways of putting peace journalism into practice in war and in peace-building efforts.
Robert A. Hackett regards peace journalism as among the processes and movements that challenge cultural, structural and physical violence and aim to achieve a more peaceful world. He concludes that the paradigm of objectivity, which he terms hegemonic, is undergoing a crisis, but has still not been replaced by any other paradigm. Hackett considers peace journalism, alternative media and media reform/communication rights movements as challenger paradigms. They ‘point beyond the objectivity regime, towards an ethos of dialogue and an epistemology of self-reflexivity, and to fundamental change in media and social structures’.
In her contribution, Birgit Brock-Utne finds fascinating links between peace journalism, media texts, historical narratives in school textbooks, security discourses, computer games and women’s advocacy for peace. Arguing that language can be used ‘both to generate and conceal meanings and to distort extra-linguistic realities’, she illustrates how security officers adopt a language that renders human deaths invisible, how history textbooks describe wars and violence, but omit conflicts that have been resolved nonviolently, how the glorification of violence is manifested in computer games, and how the writings and achievements of women peace activists have been suppressed around the world. Finally, pointing out that ‘who controls the present controls the past’, Brock-Utne recommends that peace journalism perspectives be broadly applied by media workers and textbook authors, since ‘what appears in the news media today will be recorded in the civics and history books of tomorrow’.
In the following chapter, Ibrahim Seaga Shaw proposes a critical conceptual framework of ‘human rights journalism’ as a complementary strand of Galtung’s peace journalism model that makes this model even more ‘JustPeace’ oriented. Shaw builds on the research of Lisa Schirch, who illustrated the discrepancies and incompatibility between human rights and peace discourses and proposed the concept of ‘JustPeace’, which would ‘provide answers to the questions posed by both fields’. Going one step further, Shaw introduces ‘the orientation variables’ of ‘human rights journalism’ and ‘human wrongs journalism’ and juxtaposes them with those of Galtung’s variables of peace and war journalism. Finally, Shaw critically explores how human rights journalism can, ‘through the global, long-term, proactive and sustainable approaches of JustPeace, complement and strengthen PJ [peace journalism] as a counter-hegemonic journalism practice’.
Drawing on her experience as a psychotherapist in the area of addiction recovery, Annabel McGoldrick cites a number of empirical studies from neuroscience and argues that the natural ability to empathize with others, the need for attachment relationships and caring for others are innate human characteristics. From this perspective, practicing war journalism may ‘actually be harmful to consumers precisely because it subjugates and misleadingly “frames out” a substantial portion of human nature’. Practicing peace journalism, in contrast, offers ‘humanity the best chance of being able to resolve differences nonviolently, and ultimately transform relationships into a more nurturing reality’.
Stuart Allan explores photographic images as a significant aspect of peace journalism strategy, because visual records like photographs constitute messages that ‘call to action.’ Photojournalists in conflict zones work under intense pressure and face a number of security challenges per se. However, when a party to a conflict interprets these messages as dangerous to its own agenda, photojournalism as a profession becomes even more life-threatening. In his chapter, Allan illustrates a number of cases where photographers were persecuted by security forces because of the photographs they made. If photographs are part of a greater peace journalism strategy, what should peace photography visualize? Recalling the words of Kunda Dixit, the coordinator of the exhibition ‘Frames of war’, Allan underlines the necessity to illustrate the ‘human cost’ of war so that ‘the politicians who lead people to war understand the pain they have unleashed’.
Lioba Suchenwirth and Richard Lance Keeble offer a case study of how peace journalism developed in Guatemala and argue that peace journalism theory needs a radical redefinition. The empowerment of alternative media that would incorporate local initiatives, intellectuals, campaigners and citizens, who could reconstruct stories from their own cultural and historical perspectives, is indispensable for ‘a sustainable peace [that] can only be built when implicated local groups are willing to contribute’. Considering the post-conflict situation in Guatemala and how the mainstream and alternative media choose to address the issues of racism and security, the authors conclude that while mainstream media output has been largely counterproductive to peace-building, alternative media channels such as community radio have been most successful in ‘proactive reporting, inclusion of minorities and exposing untruths on all sides’.
Sudeshna Roy and Susan Dente Ross analyze mediated terror discourses using the example of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India. Employing critical discourse analysis, the authors examine one month of editorials and op-eds from the leading Indian and American newspapers Hindustan Times and The New York Times. Although the authors establish a number of similarities and differences in how the two papers covered and interpreted the attacks and illustrate the attempts of the Indian newspaper to employ the methods of peace journalism, they conclude that the dominant discourse still ‘embraced manifest characteristics of war journalism’ and that the newspapers ‘functioned far too often as the tools of global(ising) Western power elites who continue to wage war to obtain peace’.
Stig A. Nohrstedt and Rune Ottosen analyze the media coverage of the proposal for closer military cooperation between NATO member Norway and non-aligned Sweden jointly offered by the two countries’ commanders-in-chief in August 2007. The main focus of their contribution is not so much on empirical findings as on exploring the value of the peace journalism model for media studies of conflict communication and opinion formation. Analyzing security policy discourses in Norwegian and Swedish newspapers, the authors emphasize that Galtung’s model of peace and war journalism does not encompass the previous stages in conflict escalation processes and investigate points that have been systematically avoided in news coverage. Therefore, they propose that critical discourse analysis can supplement Galtung’s model and make media research more comprehensive.
Searching for a new model of conflict reporting and peace journalism, Matt Mogekwu examines lessons learned from the Nigerian Niger-Delta crisis. The concerns of the Ogoni people in Nigeria that were neglected by the Nigerian government – their impoverishment, the degradation of the environment and the increased mortality of the people in their region due to the extraction of resources by big oil companies – led to an outbreak of anger and violence. Elaborating on how the violent conflict could have been prevented, if the necessary intervention had been made when the conflict was still in its latent stage, Mogekwi criticizes the peace journalism model for focusing much more on conflict resolution than on its prevention. Making the point that preventive peace journalism must start at the local level, Mogekwi discusses the importance of citizen journalism and calls for the development of journalism models that would accommodate approaches aimed at conflict prevention.
Pointing out that peace is a process and not an event where signatures are placed at the bottom of a peace agreement, Virgil Hawkings presents an empirical study of how media perform in covering the ‘peace process’ that precedes and follows the violent phase of conflict. He compares the media coverage of the peace processes that brought an official end to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo – ‘a stealth conflict consistently marginalized by the media in the outside world’ – with the coverage of other more visible peace processes. Thus, Hawkings compares the 2003 coverage of the Israel-Palestinian peace process by leading American, British, Canadian and Australian newspapers with the coverage in American newspapers of peace processes in Darfur, Kenya and Nepal. Concluding that peace processes are rarely covered by the media in any form, the author illustrates how the coverage of the conflict in the Congo, ‘with the death toll hundreds of times greater than the others’, was marginalized in the Western media and presented simply as a matter of peace deals or agreements.
In his contribution, Jake Lynch elaborates on a number of national and international events, as well as on the ‘customary uncritical pro-Israel stance’ of Australian politics towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and discusses how alliances among different activist groups can emerge to activate media for peace journalism. To illustrate the political context of the Australian position towards the conflict, Lynch refers, inter alia, to the decision of Australian public service broadcasting not to present a documentary showing nonviolent resistance by Palestinians to Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory, the Israeli military attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship in early 2010 and perceptions of peace and war-framed reports on the Israel-Palestinian peace process on the part of Sydney’s Muslims. Lynch concludes that a sequence of these specific events brought peace campaigners into an alliance with the leadership of Sydney’s Muslim community, but was not sufficiently developed for practical application in peace journalism.
Drawing the data for her research from the stories of 1000 women collectively nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, Elissa J. Tivona draws attention to women’s narratives as models for peace journalism, or as she puts it, to the globalization of compassion. Focusing on the nine women’s stories, paired with nine headline news stories from the women’s home countries reporting about this initiative, the author illustrates how ‘peace performances’ by women remain invisible in public. Tivona argues that ‘the timing for a new journalistic framework could not be better’, since ‘[e]stablished news agencies and global networks are hungry to reinvent themselves’. Furthermore, she suggests that compassionate behavior should be infused into mainstream public discourse and that highlighting the performances of women activists around the world on a day-to-day basis would shift the perception of the newsworthy from ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ to ‘if it heals, it reveals’.
In the final chapter of the book, Peter A. Chow-White and Rob McMahon present the findings of their empirical study of a series of eight articles published in a Canadian broadsheet newspaper in June 2008. The series, entitled ‘Dark past, hopeful future’, deals with the representation of race and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which documented the ‘history of abuses [against its aboriginal populations] that took place in government-funded, church-run schools during the 19th and 20th centuries’. In doing so, the authors also propose a methodological model that ‘draws on and operationalizes both agenda-setting theory and framing theory’ and provides ‘an analytical tool to examine prolonged and extended, or “cold”, conflicts, such as struggles over representations of race and racism’. Furthermore, the authors differentiate between ‘legacy’ and ‘new’ racism and offer analytical techniques to identify both types in the media. Applying this model to their research topic, the authors found a number of tendencies proving that although overshadowed by ‘ongoing evidence of both legacy and new racism’ towards the aboriginal peoples in Canada, the examined series did display at least some characteristics of peace journalism.

Addressing a variety of important theoretical, conceptual, methodological and practical aspects of peace journalism and/or its extension models, this volume not only provides insights into the latest developments in this important field of research, but also touches upon areas that often remain invisible for the broad public, as well as for the scientific community. In this regard, this book is a major contribution to the development of a peace journalism that will be highly suited to making the world a better place.


Irina Volf




About the author: Irina Volf earned the title of Dr. rer. Soc. in Psychology at the University of Konstanz in Germany. Her areas of specialization include quantitative and qualitative methods of media content analysis, conflict research and political Islam.


zurück zum Inhaltsverzeichnis