Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Intl Peace Research Assn wraps up conference in Japan 
These photos were taken at the just concluded International Peace Research Association conference in Tsu, Japan. All are of participants in seminars/plenaries about peace journalism. See previous post for details on some of the PJ presentations. Info about other PJ seminars will be posted here next week.

Monday, November 26, 2012

IPRA conference highlights peace journalism

It’s been an outstanding two days at the International Peace Research Association conference in Tsu, Japan. This is the first opportunity I’ve had at any conference to talk shop with researchers in and practitioners of peace journalism. Some presentation highlights:

Kony 2012: This presentation dissected and analyzed the viral video about Joseph Kony, who terrorized Uganda for about 20 years. Among the criticisms: Kony’s child victims were not (were never) invisible; Ugandan authorities are let off the hook for atrocities that they committed; and the film gave the mistaken impression Kony was still menacing Uganda and that he still leads an enormous army (he doesn’t). Presenter Swee Hin Toh noted that the film wasn’t peace journalism because it offered up only military/violent options to deal with Kony. Finally, the question was asked, would the arrest of Kony solve the LRA problem in Uganda? Would it stop the suffering, or lead to more suffering?

Radio for Peace: Maria Elena Lopez Vinader discussed a peace radio program she produces in Argentina. Her program includes presentations on and by peacemakers, as well as specially selected peace music. She said her show seeks to empower common people, raise ecological consciousness, and build tolerance of the disabled, among other things.

Peace Politics in Cyprus: This study analyzed Turkish newspaper columnists and how they write about the ongoing Greek-Turkish conflict in Cyprus. The conclusions reached by researcher Mertin Ersoy: Turkish-language columnists use official Turkish government sources, but don’t use sources from Greek officials. In general, the Turkish columnists frame issues in a conflict/war orientation (win-lose, unbalanced, antipathy for opponents, nationalism) rather than a peace journalism orientation (empathy, win-win, balance, solution orientation, etc.) Peace journalism, Ersoy noted, is sorely needed in Cyprus.

I also made presentations yesterday and today on our Peace and Electoral Journalism project (2010-11) and Peace Media and Counterterrorism project (2011-13) in Uganda. Click here for more details.

I’m looking forward to learning more in the coming days, and to initiating some longer term projects and collaborations with my newly discovered peace journalism brethren.

My hotel's upload speeds are glacial. Thus, I will post pictures later in the week.
Professor Komagum is for sale as an e-book.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Professor Komagum ebook available, Peace in Japan

The e-book version of Professor Komagum, my new book about my year spent teaching peace journalism in Uganda, is now available. Just click here for easy ordering. Autographed copies may also be obtained by clicking here.

Headed for Japan Friday. I'm speaking about peace journalism in Uganda and Kenya at the International Peace Research Association. Stay tuned for updates.

Interesting take on Gaza coverage

I have received lots of valuable feedback about my previous post (see below) wherein I blame Palestinian and Israeli media for helping to fuel the current conflict. Perhaps the most interesting correspondence was my back and forth with a reader below:

Q--Dear Steven, I hope I can express myself clearly and we can open a dialogue about the important issues you raise. At the core of your argument, you say: "Citizens in both lands deserve a sober, objective, balanced analysis of the conflict. Citizens need to know about the suffering and wrong-doing on all sides." To many who don't have the facts, your position will sound reasonable, but to me it uses bits of reason mixed in with serious distortion, and therefore leads you astray. At the core of my argument is Bishop Tutu's quote: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

So, Israel has one of the best equipped and trained military corps in the world and the Palestinians are stateless, occupied and disperse. There is nothing "balanced" about the situation, and the reporting should not be balanced either. The two "sides" are those who are pro-peace and justice for all and those who aren't. Why should "good" reporting mean that both sides get equal time?

Question for you: Would you give the slave and the master equal, "balanced" coverage in an article about slavery? I know that Palestinians aren't slaves, but the relationship of structural inequality is the same.

I look forward to your views.

A--Dear Reader, your comments are very thought provoking, and I agree with Bishop Tutu's famous quote.

I am not suggesting that there is a moral equivalency between two sides in any conflict. What I would say is that, as journalists, I believe it's our job to let our readers/viewers know that there is another side, another viewpoint. This is not meant to aggrandize or validate this viewpoint, only to recognize its existence, and in so doing, offer up an explanation (but not an excuse) for actions from the other side. To ignore the "other side" is to deny reality.

Thanks again.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Israeli and Palestinian media inflame Gaza conflict

Israeli and Palestinian media are practicing irresponsible journalism that is inflaming passions and exacerbating the current Gaza conflict.

An examination of about a dozen Israeli and Palestinian sources on 15 November reveals a shared tendency of media in the region to practice traditional inflammatory war journalism and to “rally around the flag” during this conflict.

What this admittedly cursory examination does not include, notably, is an examination of journalism produced in Hebrew and Arabic during the current crisis. If the stories produced in English, and thus meant for international dissemination, are inflammatory, biased, and provocative, one can logically speculate that the journalism produced in the local languages is even worse.

Several examples below demonstrate clearly that much of the media in the region are again eschewing objectivity. Instead, they seem committed to little more than spreading government propaganda that supports and justifies the conflict. Notice the language that’s used, the jingoistic tone, and the blatant glorifying of violence in these snippets copied without changes from online sources.

Palestinian/Arab media (Palestine Telegraph, Palestine Times, The Jordan Times, The Daily Star-Lebanon):

--Israel’s shameful bombing yesterday, which killed 15, mainly civilians, including 3 children, is the continuation of ongoing violence against the Palestinians in Gaza.

--The Israeli occupying forces…

--The Israeli military has even imposed a policy to keep Palestinians in Gaza just above the threshold off mass starvation by counting their calories.

--The Israeli military has even imposed a policy to keep Palestinians in Gaza just above the threshold off mass starvation by counting their calories.

– An Israeli full-scale war was launched yesterday against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The war was announced by Israel to be as a military operation that took a biblical name “Pillar of the Clouds”. So far, 15 Palestinians killed whom of which 8 civilians including 5 children, three women and an old man.

--Immediate calls for revenge were broadcast over Hamas radio.

--The assassination of Al-Jabari and eleven other Palestinian civilians since yesterday afternoon has raised a state of anger amongst the Palestinian people …

Mourners in Gaza--From Daily Star (Lebanon)
--Medical sources told the PIC reporter that 15 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli raids since Wednesday including chief commander of the Hamas’s armed wing the Qassam Brigades, Ahmed Al-Ja’bari, an 11-month-old infant, a three-year-old baby girl, a young woman, and a 65-year-old man.

--The operation prompted widespread condemnation, with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi recalling Cairo’s envoy to Israel and summoning the Israeli ambassador for consultations, his spokesperson said

--Instead, the only crowds are those gathered in mosques mourning the dead, or queuing outside bakeries to stock up on bread. "I circled around for two hours, looking for a place with the shortest line," said Momen Ahmed, 24, standing outside the Abu Dayya bakery with his friends. First is a man in a blue tracksuit, lying crumpled and barefoot on a stretcher as he screams and weeps.

Israeli Media-(Hareetz, Arutz Sheva, Debka, Jerusalem Post):

-- Sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and residents were told to head for shelter Thursday evening. An explosion was reportedly heard. Magen David Adom said that there were no casualties.

 -- At about 13:00 around 30 to 40 Arab students assembled on one of the lawns of the University of Haifa and stood for a moment of silence in memory of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari, who was assassinated yesterday by an Israeli air strike. As the Arabs stood silent some Jewish students, who were obviously offended by the assembly, began singing "Hatikva," the Israeli national anthem. Some university staff members then arrived to calm the situation, but the Arabs dispersed quickly, shouting, "He's dead, he's dead."

--As the rockets kept coming through Wednesday night – and the first three fatalities Thursday morning, Nov. 15 - the cautious lift in Israeli spirits generated by the death of Ahmed Jabari, who fashioned Hamas into a paramilitary machine of terror.

-- But Operation Pillar of Cloud’s first part showed a favorable balance: Palestinian missile fire was as erratic as ever, although intense; Iron Dome filtered out the rockets aimed at Israel’s major towns; Israeli casualties were relatively low though painful; and the enemy in Gaza was decapitated – for now.

-- The Palestinians and their allies in Tehran and Hizballah suddenly discovered that the old IDF had come roaring back.

-- The tough part of the Israeli operation to eliminate the terrorist war peril hovering over southern Israel from the Gaza Strip is still to come. For now, Hamas is at a loss for a strategic answer to the IDF offensive.

 -- Seemingly addressing an international audience, the prime minister said "there is no moral symmetry equivalent between Israel and Hamas and the terrorist groups in Gaza." President Shimon Peres on Thursday also expressed support for the ongoing military operation in Gaza, saying "it was the right thing to do and it is being done correctly," Israel Radio reported.

-- Mofaz said that Israel must pursue terrorists in Gaza in order to make them feel persecuted, according to Israel Radio.

-- National Union MK Aryeh Eldad also weighed in, calling on the government to cut off its supply of electricity and water to Gaza, saying that "until Israel goes into Gaza and cuts off its supply lines, Israelis will continue to suffer."

-- MDA paramedics treated five wounded people at the site of the Kiryat Malachi attack, in which a rocket hit a four-story building. Three people were pronounced dead on the scene and two others were suffering moderate injuries, including a baby.

-- The IDF "believes the rocket fire will intensify." Tank fire also was directed at terror targets, he said.

--… The spokesman concluded by describing the Hamas-ruled Strip as "a forward Iranian base," and urged the populace to remain steadfast, as "home front resilience is vital for the continuing operation."

It’s clear from the published articles, as well as photojournalism from the conflict, that the media outlets seem either ignorant about or disinterested in practicing peace journalism. These articles violate the important principle peace journalism that reporters should avoid using inflammatory language. Examples from these articles include terms like terror and terrorism, suffering, decapitated, assassination, revenge, and mass starvation. As peace journalism teaches, such language adds nothing to the reader’s understanding of the story, but instead brings only emotion to the story, thus entrenching and enhancing acrimony and making peaceful soultions even less likely.

These Israeli and Palestinian articles violate other PJ principles as well, including sensationalizing casualties (particularly of women and children), concentrating on suffering only on “their” side, completely ignoring peacemakers and any solutions other than violent or military ones, blaming the “other side” for starting the conflict, and demonizing the “enemy”.

This is a familiar pattern for Middle Eastern journalists. The same irresponsible pro-government reporting also occurred in 2009, during the last Israeli-Gaza conflict. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post (Jan. 21, 2009), ‘Both Israeli and Arab media rallied around the flag during the Gaza operation, panelists told the audience during an Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) event on Wednesday. Keshev Executive Director Yizhar Be'er presented an analysis of the Israeli press over the three-week conflict. Keshev and its Palestinian partner analyze the Israeli and Palestinian media. ‘In times of crisis or war, the immediate reflex of the Israeli media is to rally around the flag. They provided full justification for the military operation and full support for decision-makers,’ Be'er said.“

Both the Palestinian and Israeli people are ill-served by their flag-waving media. Citizens in both lands deserve a sober, objective, balanced analysis of the conflict. Citizens need to know about the suffering and wrong-doing on all sides. Most of all, they need to at least hear a discussion about peaceful alternatives and non-violent (or less violent) solutions to the conflict.

For a terrific view of propaganda about the Gaza conflict, see:
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

False tweets provide lessons for peace journalists

I've been thinking a lot about the rumours/falsehoods spread by Twitter during Sandy. Two great pieces caught my eye:


This resonates, or should resonate, with peace journalists since one of our most important functions is to debunk rumors. These Twitter rumors during Sandy were irritating, yes, but this time weren't a matter of life or death. But what if Twitter-published lies somehow caused first responders to waste their time responding to a non-existent crisis?

In countries where ethnic and religious differences often flare into violence, Twitter's potential for mischief rises exponentially. It's not a stretch to imagine a false tweet igniting inter-ethnic violence in many parts of the world.

Given Twitter's potential destructive power, the question arises about if government officials in the U.S. and elsewhere would ever be justified in either censoring tweets or punishing lying tweeters. This is a question my students and I have been chewing on much of the week.

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