Reconciliative journalism?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one example of a country where journalists have started reconciliation initiatives of which some are still ongoing. Photo taken 2013 from a bus crossing the Western part of the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one example of a country where journalists have started reconciliation initiatives of which some are still ongoing. Photo taken 2013 from a bus crossing the Western part of the country.



A couple of weeks ago I reached one personal milestone in academia.

My master’s thesis for the University of Tampere got accepted and published. My topic: post-conflict societies and the role of journalists in peace-building and reconciliation.

I knew for a long time that I would like to write about this topic. Also I knew what the outcome would be: a new concept, a pair of words that would give an answer to this dilemma. Reconciliative journalism.

So what do I mean with reconciliative journalism? After months’ work of theoretical juggling of journalistic, mass communication and peace and conflict research theories and studies, I had finally summed up most of the relevant literature to give me the following definition:

Reconciliative journalism is when journalists view themselves and the media as part of the framework of conflict resolution; they foster communication and dialogue between all parties of the conflict; and report on the past in a way that enhances solidarity among the conflicting parties.

And further:

Reconciliative journalism…

– Recognizes journalism as part of the conflict resolution tool kit
– recognizes the inherent potential of journalism to mediate peace, and uses conflict analysis to increase self-awareness among journalists
– selects material for reporting on the basis of whether it has the potential to conflict transformation
– takes into account and deals with cultural and structural violence
– looks at the conflict as a phenomenon that trespasses physical borders, and searches for people and consequences linked to it
– avoids presenting groups through their leaders’ statements, and looks at people’s experiences and opinions at the grassroots level
– follows up on open questions after peace treaties
– promotes the building of national, independent and professional journalistic institutions, as well as a free mass media and the rooting of freedom of expression as a feature of state reconstruction

– Promotes communication and dialogue between all (and not only two) different parties of the conflict
– creates a dialogue involving all parties of the conflict
– creates structures for communication, which overcomes different divisions between groups, such as culture, race, religion and politics
– promotes different points of view in the public sphere
– aims at removing enemy pictures, assumptions and stereotypes that prevailed during the conflict with a dialogue that promotes trust and by emphasizing what the different parties have in common
– looks for options and solutions that benefit all parties
– prioritizes shared rights and looks for wishes for peace among all parties

– Deals with the past in a way that enhances solidarity
– reports on conflicts and history by describing the shared suffering
– looks at victims and perpetrators collectively, which leads to identifying suffering and punishments more to groups than to individuals
– documents symbolic meetings and events and transmits them to a wider public, which can help a society to recognize deep-rooted traumas
– communicates political apologies and pardons
– restores the human dignity of all parties of the conflict, both the victims and the perpetrators
– recognizes historical wrong-doings and suffering from all involved parties

This definition came to be after an extensive review of relevant literature, with the addition of three small empirical examples of journalistic projects that have aimed at reconciliation in the aftermath of a conflict.

It would be great to hear your comments and thoughts on the above!

I’m currently looking into possibilities to expand this research in a PhD proposal, with a special focus to look into what’s being done on the field. Are there projects conducted by journalists that resemble what I have described? Can this definition be sharpened with empiric experiences?

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