Slavery in Libya. The torture of gay men in Chechnya. Chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
These atrocities and more are being brought into the public eye through governmental and nongovernmental media; but perhaps no medium is as as important as peace journalism. Mainstream media has become more focused on violence and less on the importance of peace, requiring peace journals to fill the void. However, as President Trump proposed defunding the U.S. Institute for Peace that funds peace journalism, it is important to remember that peace journalism helps stop violence while creating strong communities and must be funded.
In their acclaimed 2005 book, Peace Journalism, Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick provide a concrete definition of peace journalism, writing, “Peace Journalism is 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 nonviolent responses to conflict.”
Simply put, peace journalism is when journalism and media, in any form, try to frame stories in a way that promotes peace in a world where the news focuses sensationalizes violent action. This includes stories like YaLa Press’ photo essay for peace, and a story about the power of nonviolent Arbab action by the National Catholic Reporter, that prove that peace is still newsworthy.
Because of this wide definition, there can be no true count of the number of news organizations that promote peace journalism; but, there are some key players that are funded by the state.
One important initiative is the annual grant competition hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace which provides funds to media organizations, “to advance the conflict resolution and peacebuilding fields – and to promote peace.” Past projects include YaLa New Media Citizen Journalists, a media organization in the broader Middle East North Africa region to empower citizen journalists. The organization has created over 300 blog posts promoting peace and nonviolence throughout the region, and continues to work toward creating a more stable region, which would not be possible without the funding of the United States government.
Critics of peace journalism worry that if foreign funding sources, like the United States government, have too limited funding and biases over the news they will turn to nongovernmental organizations and nonprofits instead. While this does accomplish one goal getting peace journalism out there, it stops states from being able to actively support peace journalism.
Search for Common Ground is a peace media organization that focuses on dialogue, media and community to find peace. It is a registered American nonprofit that has active peace television in 18 countries and 24 countries, along with active peace radio. Peace journalism and radio work in tandem toward bridging communities by portraying ethnic, racial and social differences and teaching how to overcome such differences in a nonviolent, peaceful way.
Together, these media forms reach 54 million people every year and have strengthened government and media relationships. For example, the project Media for Change in Madagascar trained local journalists and gave them forums for open dialogue with government officials that the journalists were encouraged to write about. This bridged tensions between the government and journalists that has created a more open and free press for all to enjoy.
Other organizations, like PeaceTech Lab, use their nonprofit model to create television shows and journalism promoting peace, including the youth TV show Salam Shabab. Once part of the U.S. Institute for Peace, PeaceTech Lab decided to take the leap away from state funding to receive funding by donors in order to ensure economic security and freedom.
Despite the numerous positive impacts of peace journalism, many remain critical: results are not fast enough, regions are still war torn, and journalists remain at the center of much controversy. And, when it comes down to it, investors don’t like spending money unless they can get clear and easy results of peace, more democratic participation, a freer media, or a better cooperation between different ethnic groups.
Peace journalism isn’t clear cut, and it certainly isn’t easy. Engaging with local communities, fostering ideas of nonviolence, and demonstrating the necessity of peace are practices the U.S. government must keep up, if not for a solely practical reason but a moral one. In a time of mass human rights violations, it is important that America demonstrate their unwavering commitment to a free press and peace in the world.
Speak out against Trump’s proposed funding cuts against U.S. Institute of Peace and any other cuts to United States programs that fund peace journalism; support peace journalism through donations and by consuming and sharing peace journalism from different organizations like YaLa New Media Citizen Journalists; and combat news that glorifies conflict and instead advocate for peace journalism’s continued existence for as a necessary part of a free media.