As the war hysteria takes over South Asia, it is important to look at different ways to make the debate more productive. Peace journalism requires people to have a holistic understanding of any conflict to make reporting free of bias.
It is important for media organisations to refrain from promoting the narratives of those who want war, said Oslo Metropolitan University’s Dr Rune Ottosen.
The role of a peace journalist is to look at a conflict from different angles and understand the cause of conflict rather than promoting war, he said while speaking on the topic during the First International Conference on Media and Conflict in Islamabad on Tuesday.
Peace journalism encourages people to look for the legality of a war, check if any war is justified by international law, focus on ground realities and highlight how it is affecting people’s lives.
The media must be critical towards the government too. “Sometimes, you just have to criticise it,” he said, giving the example of the Norwegian participation in military efforts against the Libyan government in 2011.
Dr Jake Lynch, who teaches at the University at Sydney, said that peace journalism is a set of policy responses to the structure of foreign news.
A picture of a barber starting his business again after losing his shop in the 2005 earthquake in Balakot was shown to participants of the session. Oslo Metropolitan University’s Dr Elisabeth Eide said the picture is an example of the way photojournalism can be used positively. “This picture to me shows the resilience of the people of Pakistan. The barber started his business even after losing his shop. People know that there is strength in surviving.”
She pointed out some factors that exacerbate conflicts, which included the ‘otherisation’ process, climate change and lack of empathy. Dr Eide questioned the growing dependence on social media too. Who moderates social media? We need to ask ourselves this question, she said. “Social media is being used to groom and recruit extremists now.”
‘Focus on history not ethical issues’
BBC journalist Own Bennet Jones said that journalists concern themselves with issues regarding semantics and don’t pay much attention to the cause of any conflict.
“Suppose a Western journalist turns up in Kashmir. He will not know about its history and it will show in his reporting,” he said. “My advice to people in the media is to not get into ethical issues and learn more history.”
He remarked that he would hire history graduates as reporters. “You need those people to report who understand the context of the conflict,” he added. “I don’t have any problem with reports being passionate about a topic.”