Jake Lynch Speech on Peace Journalism

Jake Lynch, pioneer of peace journalism and keynote speakers at the Media, Peace and Human Rights Regional Conference 2017, gave a speech on Peace Journalism.

What journalism is really about is the basis of which the choice is made up. In journalism, there is the image of the gatekeeper with the journalists themselves standing on the gates and letting some things in and keeping some other things out. But really individual journalists have not all that much to do with that. When it comes to the part of conflicts, the main choices that are made are choices that arise from the study that’s carried out from daily newspapers. And a daily newspaper has an edition every 24 hours, so, for example, one of its main news values is what they call “frequency”, and that means that all the developments which you can point out, which have a definite beginning, middle and end, they all take place within the 24 hours. They are the ones that are likely to be reported. Now when it comes to the portrayal of results and narratives, it’s dominated by violent systems, giving an impression to readers and audiences that that’s what the conflict consists of.

So, for example, we’ve had in the recent days the absolutely tragic event in Sinai of the bombing of the mosque with lots of people killed, and then the next episode, that we had not given attention to, is anything about the processing that led up to that event. Anything about why some communities become receptive to messages of hate, and, therefore, form a seedbed for the arising and spread of something like terrorism such as the “Islamic State”. So without seeing many things about how does the reader, the viewer or the listener have any idea how those processing could be diverted along the less violent parts, and that’s the crucial thing, that would be key to giving a chance.

The Peace Journalism is not about the journalism that becomes a cheerleader for peace or that makes proposals for peace. It’s about the journalism that gives peace a chance and makes reports of these initiatives. It enables us to understand a specific potential of diverting these processes towards a less violent state.

For several decades after that original essay Johan Galtung proposed Peace Journalism as a set of four main distinctions. The dominant form of War Journalism was war orientated, so Peace Journalism would be peace orientated. “Peace orientated” in the sense of showing us what the conflict consists of, not just the violent events.

We’re ending to report the statements of official sources in particular that place value of Peace Journalism as truth orientated, that is to say enabling us to switch on our critical scrutiny and wonder what lies behind the statements. Where War Journalism was elite orientated, so nothing comes on the agenda until it’s talked about by leaders.

Lastly, War Journalism was victory orientated, so every development of the conflict is reported as though it is building one side towards victory over the other. So the hole is conceived as a problem that will only end with one side winning and the other losing.

On the other hand, Peace Journalism would be solution orientated, trying to figure out what the problems are, which part of the lives of the people affected by the conflict, and trying to ventilate and give space for the coverage to ideas. So these are the main four distinctions for the peace journalism module.

What happened since then is that the Peace Journalism module has been used as an organizing principle for various activities, one has been researched, so scholars and table researchers, like me, have taken the Peace Journalism module and used this module to figure out how much Peace Journalism is actually there. That brings me to another point, there’s not so many journalists training initiatives often offered as media development factors.

For example, one of the most effective Peace Journalism trainers at the moment is my friend, Steven Youngblood, he’s from the United States and he has project funding from the US State Department to go and give trainings to journalists in places like Uganda and Ethiopia.

There probably are few journalists who think to themselves ‘How can we stir up this conflict? How can we make it worse?’ but they must be very small in number. The real problem is when some journalists unintentionally and unwittingly make prompted mistakes.

So if we have a dominant form of War-oriented Journalism, I’m talking about logical or even inevitable. So people try to take out those assumptions. When people take out those assumptions they can be more receptive to proposals for vows. For example, the idea that we can react to a phenomenon such as terrorism only by using military force is very unsupportive.

People, like Steven, are actually doing that kind of work. I’ve done quite a little bit that kind of work in places like Indonesia and Philippines. So Peace Journalism has been the organizing principle for initiatives in journalist training as well. And what we try to do is to insure that the two forms inform each other. So the first that takes place tries to insure that what we are calling for is the feasible journalists to actually do and we do journalist training trying to make sure that we give them research about how the journalists are expected to implement Peace Journalism in their daily life.

Peace Journalism, therefore, is a reform agenda and it’s a reform agenda in a domain which I would describe as a symbolic domain. What I mean by that is when we’re talking about the dynamics of conflicts, I’m talking about the reasons why a conflict develops and progresses the way it does. It’s not mainly events in that conflict which determine its cause and its progress. We’re all familiar with wild events like the bombing of the mosque the other day in Sinai. What determines the cause of that conflict is the meanings that people make in response to an event. Now how do we make meanings in response to an event? Well, the only way we can do that is by referring or comparing it to a previous experience, a previous experience and we slot it in through meaning structures that we have already built up through that experience over the years and how do we build or construct these structures? In any way start checking references to news and journalists. So the range of different meaning that we make in response to such violences is influenced by the journalism we have read. The reform agenda for reporting a conflict that is peace orientated, then overtime, people will make different meanings in response to such events and meaning to initiatives that are likely to make peace.

I know that because of research that I had done, where we spent time in four countries, Australia, Philippines, South Africa and Mexico, and in each case we broadcasted new versions of new interviewees, new pictures and new content. So we had a War Journalism television bulletin and a Peace Journalism television bulletin and we played those two to different audiences. The people who watched the Peace Journalism version were more likely to become hopeful and concentrate more and, crucially, they were able to perceive problems presented to them in these stories as embedded in political process and therefore having potential solutions which could be applied at those levels.

By engaging them in Peace Journalism, they would become more receptive to initiatives that are likely to bring peace. But as I began by saying, peace is seen in that context, not as an alternative to people’s rights, in particular, human rights. I would say that if peace is going to be sustainable, then it must include human rights. We have a need for food, for example, therefore we have a right to food. Human rights inevitably include some idea of equity of treatment, and without people being able to enjoy those things, peace can’t be sustainable … Because we need human needs. These are not things we can do without, they are things that we are made out of, and therefore people are in a position where their human needs are denied and are fated to struggle against that situation and to put up with it. So peace initiatives, peace plans, peace ideas and peace work must be based on human rights if it is going to be sustainable. Otherwise, it will lead to frustration and depression and the whole conflict side will begin again.

So these are some of my views about how peace, human rights and Peace Journalism might fit together.