Media contribute to the social construction of reality, on one hand, by introducing specific topics into public discourse and, on another, by presenting these topics. As Jim Morrison rightly said, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind” acknowledging the fact that the media itself play a role in the propaganda war, peace journalism can come hand in hand. The history of peace journalism can be traced back to 1965, Johan Galtung’s model.
Galtung’s model of peace journalism builds on the dichotomy between what he calls ‘war journalism’ and a ‘peace journalism’ approach. War journalism is seen as a profession that predominantly reports violence and detaches conflict from its wider context, both in time and space. In this fashion, conflict is portrayed as a zero-sum game, where the narrative “us” vs. “them” is the predominant frame. War journalism is considered close to propaganda because of its inclination to expose the lies of ‘the other’, whilst covering or omitting those of its ‘own’. On the contrary, exposing the interplay of power, and power relations in conflict scenarios at all levels in society (inter-personal, cultural and structural, as well as globally) is a necessary component within the practice of peace journalism.
Peace Journalism is when editors and reporters are aware of their contribution to the construction of reality and of their responsibility to “give peace a chance”. Within the field of peace journalism ‘peace’ – intended as an end – and ‘nonviolence’ – intended as a means or practice – is considered as both the organizing principles of news-making and the fundamental moral givens all societies should aim towards, nationally and globally. It constitutes a medium for exploring the aspects and dynamics of physical, cultural, and structural violence, the exploration that is considered vital for the orientation of knowledge and production of actions, which are needed to build more peaceful societies.
Journalists don’t just report facts, they also give them meaning. And even if they try to report truthfully, they can only write what they believe to be true. However, journalists are members of society, and they often share the same beliefs as other members of their society. For “Peace Journalism” to prevail, Galtung and Lynch established four main principles that can serve as main guidance for peace journalism: 1) Explore the formation of conflicts: who are the parties involved; what are their goals; what is the socio-political and cultural context of the conflict; what are the visible and invisible manifestations of violence 2) Avoid the de-humanization of the parties involved and expose their interests 3) Offer nonviolent responses to conflict and alternatives to militarized/violent solutions 4) Report nonviolent initiatives that take place at the grassroots level and follow the resolution, reconstruction and reconciliation phases.
However, the norms of quality journalism are a necessary but not sufficient condition for the production of quality journalism during conflicts and crises. To give peace a chance: journalists need to refrain from the media’s focus on negative news and a superficial balancing in their reports; they need to mistrust the superficially plausible, refrain from oversimplification and ask the right questions. If they succeed, they will find an audience that appreciates their coverage as more understandable and less biased, more impartial, and more balanced than conventional war reporting.
A nonviolent approach to conflict might be harder, but more efficient for the preservation of the human race if we consider that the current advancement in military technology would cause a higher and indiscriminate destructiveness. In my opinion, peace journalism is a valid attempt for stripping war journalism of its predominant focus on violence and from its deeply embedded bias that considers militarism as the most effective remedy to conflict. It can be said that the main challenge peace journalism responds to is attributing to nonviolence the legitimization and authority it deserves. Peace Journalism is a worthwhile endeavor, and in the long-run, it may contribute to a society’s co-construction of reality more beneficially and productively.