East Africa Regional Peace Journalism Training Workshop

The Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security (CMDPS), Rongo University, Rongo, in collaboration with the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) sponsored a two-day Regional Peace Journalism Workshop for East Africa, in Kisumu, Kenya. Other institutions represented at the workshop included: The Center for Global Peace Journalism, Park University; the East Africa Peace Journalism Foundation; the Media Council of Kenya, the University of Nairobi; and Moi University.

The workshop brought together journalists from five East African countries—Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda—to discuss capacity-building measures for reporting on conflict in an objective manner, as well as ways to promote understanding of peace journalism theory and practice.

Lectures were given by three APN Alumni: Dr. Jacinta Mwende Maweu (IRG 2015) of Nairobi University, Dr. Duncan Omanga (IRG 2014) of Moi University, and Dr. Fredrick Ogenga (IRG 2014) of Rongo University. Presentations were also made by Prof. Steven Youngblood of Park University, Gloria Laker Aciro of the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa, John Oluoch of Rongo University College, and Victor Bwire of the Media Council of Kenya.

The workshop’s first day examined whether the media serves as a tool predominantly to mediate or intensify conflict. Prof. Youngblood noted the importance of avoiding inflammatory language when covering conflict and encouraged journalists reporting on the upcoming Kenyan elections to employ peace journalism practices. Similarly, Gloria Laker Aciro stressed the importance of peace journalism, citing the positive impact of journalism during the Lord’s Resistance Army War (1988–2006) as an example of the media’s role in the peacebuilding process.

In his presentation on “Media, Terrorism and the ‘Question of Peace’,” Dr. Omanga highlighted four strategies for journalists covering terrorism. These included understanding the logic of terror as well as the context of terrorism, establishing media policies for the coverage terrorism, and being sensitive to language and labels used in reporting.

Discussion around mitigating the risk of inducing or exacerbating conflict through journalism continued on the second day, with lectures from Dr. Ogenga, Dr. Mwende Maweu, and Mr. Bwire. Dr. Ogenga spoke about “Hybrid Peace Journalism: Institutional Philosophical Approach to Peace and Security in Africa.” He emphasized a need for journalism to counter traditional “Western-style” reporting that depicts Africa in a negative light.

Dr. Mwende Maweu spoke to the relationship between the media and human rights and social justice in her lecture on “Peace Journalism and Human Rights,” reiterating the importance of humane reporting and the presentation of a comprehensive narrative of the conflict. Subsequent presentations further discussed peaceful electoral reporting practices and how to adopt peace journalism theories.

Participants agreed that the workshop was informative and displayed an interest in adopting peace journalism practices throughout their respective organizations. Prof. Youngblood concluded the workshop by recommending that the journalists unite and form a peace journalism press club in East Africa. The East Africa Regional Peace Journalism Training Workshop participants also formed a WhatsApp group, the “APN-RU East Africa Peace Workshop,” where they have continued to discuss African peace journalism. Additionally, the papers presented at the workshop will be published in an edited e-book, tentatively titled The Watchdog: Hybrid Peace Journalism in East Africa.