Journalism is not just about reporting facts. It is about ‘what’ to report and ‘how’ to report. Showing all the sides of a conflict is a very necessary step towards peace, and Peace Journalism can help in promoting an understanding between diverse groups.
Peace journalism can be defined as a special mode of socially responsible journalism which contributes to the peaceful settlement of conflicts. It is a form of journalism where editors and reporters make choices about what to report, and how to report, and to explore the causes of a conflict, in order to create opportunities for the community to solve it with peaceful and non-violent means.
The concept of peace journalism can be first traced back to 1965, when Norwegian Sociologist and the Principal Founder of the Discipline of Peace and Conflict Studies, Johan Galtung and Mari Ruge, analysed what makes international news newsworthy. The notion of peace journalism was further developed by Jack Lynch and Johan Galtung in 2010, who argued that the media predominantly exhibits a bias towards violence and rests on the belief that conflict is equal to war. Galtung himself defined peace journalism as, “when editors and reporters make choices – of what to report, and how to report it – that create opportunities for society at large to consider and value non-violent responses to conflict.” He made a distinction between “positive” peace and “negative” peace, as such: Peace journalism is split into two: ‘negative’ peace journalism, which tries to find solutions to conflicts in order to reduce violence; and ‘positive’ peace journalism, which wants to explore the possibility of more positive cooperation.
Media is a powerful factor. Our thoughts are shaped, not only by experience, but what we read, listen, and are exposed to. By exposing people to one side of the story, and making them believe there is no other alternative, the media promotes cultural violence. Peace journalism does a great job in dissipating this. The primary idea of journalism itself is to deliver unbiased news and facts, incorporating a comprehensive context of the whole situation. The media’s selective approach to what to cover, and how to cover, has always been a debate. In many cases people complain about the manner in which a story is represented by the media. Peace journalism mandates the media to discover the root cause of a religious or any other conflict, thoroughly study and analyse it, and finally come out with a proposed solution. Given the complexities of modern day conflicts and disputes, this form of journalism is undoubtedly the ‘need of the hour’.
If we take into account the conflicts that have afflicted India for long years, we can safely conclude that the concept of peace journalism is yet to take root in this multi-religious, and multicultural, secular nation. During some of the most complicated and dangerous disputes that plagued India for years, like the Khalistan movement; the Kashmir issue; the Ayodhya dispute; the Bodoland movement; and even the Naxal movement, the media hardly played any noticeable role to tackle and resolve these disputes. What they did was to merely present the facts of violent incidents as they happened: figures of human lives lost, accounts of damage done to the government and public properties, during struggles of a conflict. Hardly any journalist attempted to go to the root cause of the matter and come up with a solution.
On the contrary, there are newspapers and channels that provide unregulated or unchecked content, thus further adding to the tense situation during a conflict. Like many other countries, India also has war journalism as a dominant form of journalism. This is actually what most people prefer to watch. This brings more TRP for the news channels, and because of this, the other side of the story is never shown. Many times the media houses are corrupt as they are owned by big business corporations; thus, they choose to show what is good for the government, and profitable for them, rather than showing the true story so that people get a comprehensive viewpoint of the situation. If a mob lynching is reported anywhere in India, different media groups take opposing stands. In trying to bring out the magnitude of the crime, they start promoting disharmony between the two communities. There are no attempts to indicate that they are trying to broker peace with their journalism. This is the case with not just India alone; media the world over lacks the agenda of peace.
This kind of journalism is new to the world and is yet to take roots in any country. We have to see to it that it grows and becomes productive and provides solutions rather than simply putting out facts and figures. A multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multilingual, and multicultural country like India needs ‘peace journalism’ the most. The earlier we develop it, the easier it will be for us to get out of the ‘conflict zone’.
Ishan Kalhans is a student pursuing History from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Umar Farooque Shaikh