Sunday, July 26, 2015

Reconsidering the Tips On a Peace Journalist’s Activity: the Ukrainian View

By Inna Sukhenko

Living within 250 km from the area of war activities and even getting used to following the current events in the east of Ukraine, I have a chance to reconsider some points about peace journalism. The SUSI session on Media and Conflicts launched the process of my own reconsideration of the peace journalist’s activities. Whether my reconsiderations are right or wrong is a matter of opinion, but they are based on everyday’s records about where the battle takes place, what city or village is under attack, who of my friends is recruited for military service.     Instead of adding to the already existing division and rivalry, the peace journalist should try to focus on the possible peaceful coexistence of now rivaling parties. It also could be advisable for a peace journalism to draw the public’s attention to the presence of some other parties that may act as intermediaries, guarantors of the conflicting parties’ interests in case the negotiated solution can be achieved.
Instead of drawing sharp lines between oneself and «other» – especially when at the root of the conflict are issues extremely important for the peace journalist him(her)self – one should try to understand the conflict and its consequences as the «human» problem – the process (problem) of the universal, all-human nature (rights and liberties of participants, their expectations, life pursuits, etc.).
Instead of focusing both spatially and chronologically on the ongoing conflict developments, the peace journalist reporting the conflict should trace back this conflict’s origins trying to understand and present to the public its roots, missed opportunities and all sides’ mistakes and lost opportunities that paved the way to the outbreak of hostilities (as well as opportunities still open to the rivaling parties).
Instead of focusing solely on violent dimension of the conflict – or, more precisely, on the «effectiveness» of the violent means employed by the sides of the conflict, the journalist should uncover nasty dimension of the consequences of the conflicting parties’ resorting to violence (death, suffering, injustice, disruption of the normal life, and, last not least, closing opportunities for the conflict’s resolution for violence breeds violence, creates vicious circle of violence and counter-violence, violent acts and acts of revenge).
Instead of letting only leaders (who perfectly well could be self-serving and insincere), the peace journalist should also listen to the other voices – ordinary members of communities; those who benefit from the conflict and those who suffer because of it; popular although not official figures, etc. This will enable the peace journalist to cut through thick layers of official rhetoric (quite often resembling Orwellian «New Speak») to the voices of the real people, those who not just «lead» but live in the time of the conflict.
Instead of concentrating on what divides the parties of the conflict, the journalist should focus on their remaining common interests; instead of following the logic of a «zero-sum game», the peace journalist should try to show that despite the rivalry, there are still exist some «pie-enlarging» scenarios.
Instead of «painting it black» and savoring violence – even if the reasons for it are allegedly noble – the journalist should devote some substantial share of his (her) attention to what remained of the normal life even in the epicenter of the conflict. Not only will this make the picture more complex and «colorful», it will also clearly demonstrate the strength of the human spirit and raise the hope for the eventual reconciliation and rehabilitation.
Instead of blaming exclusively one side of the conflict for the outburst of the confrontation, the journalist, covering the war events, should analyze impassionedly all sides’ ways and, so to say, «contributions» to the conflict working to provide better understanding of the current developments by putting them into multidimensional retrospective (as well as helping at least to grapple for the conflicting sides’ common points and possible subjects of negotiations).Instead of focusing exclusively on the suffering of only one side of the conflict, the peace journalist should present the whole picture with death and sufferings being faced by all sides. Not only will this make the picture clearer and more truthful. It also may plant the seeds of understanding how irrational and all-destructive the conflict is.
Instead of applying «victimizing» language to any of the sides of the conflict, the peace journalist should try to depict those sides’ nature and activity (especially those parties that face the most serious challenge in the course of the conflict) in terms of either neutral characterization or underlying not only those parties’ losses and sufferings but also their ability to act resolutely and productively under pressure, their ability to retain their human dignity and their readiness to leave the trauma of the conflict behind on move towards brighter horizons.

Thanks to SUSI for such vivid brainstorming. I actually needed this.

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