Peace Journalism and its role in the conflict between Palestine and Israel

Journalists and stakeholders from the field of international cooperation and solidarity discuss the role of journalism in Pau media coverage of the conflict between Israel and Palestine two weeks ago in Barcelona, during the event hosted by SCI Catalonia to present the report “The Media coverage of the conflict between Palestine and Israel“.

Peace Journalism and its role in the conflict between Palestine and Israel - Photo credit: Sci Catalonia

What is the role of the media in conflict resolution? What is Peace Journalism? What position should we take when discussing a conflict? These are some of the questions that were discussed in the presentation of the report on the coverage of the conflict between Israel and Palestine prepared by the journalists’ group “Grup Barnils” with the collaboration of SCI Catalonia.

The report is framed in the theoretical framework of Peace Journalism, which understands that journalists play an active role in the conflict and can make an impact towards its solution.  It analyses the media coverage of the conflict between Palestine and Israel for 18 months in the main Catalan media: The Newspapers “El Pais”, “La Vanguardia” and “Ara”, and the TV Channels “TV3” and “RTVE”.

In the print media "Journalism Peace is the fine print" - said one of the authors, since many owners take a negative outlook while the texts do have a perspective that responds to a greater extent to the principles of Peace Journalism. Together, the different media analysed, recognize that this is a conflict but they do not say that it is a conflict that violates human rights. As to the sources, the main fault detected is that most media do not use the NGOs as sources of information, even those organisations that are specialists in this theme, and many have people on the ground.  

Following the presentation of the report and its mains conclusions, the u professor of journalism Xavier Giró gave a short explanation and reflection of the situation according to Peace Journalism. He tried to answer the question “How should we explained, then, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a perspective of Peace Journalism?” Conflict is part of reality and is an engine of change, but how to address it so it can result in a positive impact for the society around it? Can the speeches of the media legitimize the abuse of power? Or, instead, can the speech  empower people discriminated unfairly? According to Giró, when we say the conflict in Israel and Palestine, this only partially addresses the complexity: we do not really mean all Israel, but the government of the State of Israel. So, simplified discourse blurring the imagination of our potential audience bridges of understanding that could bring conflict resolution.

The event finished with a round table formed by journalists, following the discussion and reflection about Peace Journalism in the frame of the conflict between Palestine and Israel. The journalist Cristina Mas suggested adding a sixth W in the five classics: What can I do? According to Giró, a journalist should be well informed and able to act and change the world. In this context, explaining that the violent actions carried out by the oppressed in a conflict often legitimize the violence of the oppressor in the eyes of the public image. So the media must pay attention and publish the examples of nonviolent resistance in Palestine, which would help the public opinion to understand that there are other ways of resolving the conflict. Therefore, according to Giró, "to do Peace journalism nowadays it means also to support the international campaign BDS  (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and its activists". To this declaration, the journalists on the table agreed that it is difficult to talk about the BDS in the mass media but it can be done, as explained Isabel Galí from the TV3 channel, that recently interviewed Omar Bargouti, a founder of the movement. Moreover, Josep Maria Royo from the Catalan Federation of NGOs, agreed that there are many peace initiatives that are not visible in most media, he said, because Israel and other powerful stakeholders are not interested.  

All together, the presentation and the debate lasted more than two hours and opened many interesting and necessary question marks both to the journalists present and the public attending the event. And although the negative points were not ignored when talking about the reality of good journalism, the event highlighted many positive and some best practices done by the Catalan media when covering the conflict, always keeping in mind that there are still many things to improve.



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