There is increasing concern about the way the mass media report events that harm people’s lives and livelihoods. Many media accounts of conflict, poverty, climate change, and violence against women are biased, and – let’s face it – downright unethical.
Fortunately, a theoretical and practical framework exists to challenge this paradigm. It is called peace journalism and it says that by presenting a broader range of information from many different perspectives, journalists place the onus of interpretation on readers and viewers. Peace journalism provides context, depth, and alternatives, rather than cut and dried answers.
Advocates of peace journalism propose a set of norms and practices aimed at changing the way media frame political, social, economic, and cultural issues. Critics say that peace journalism is synonymous with good journalism and is, therefore, nothing to shout about. What they overlook is that story angles and sources, and the way journalistic narratives are structured, convincingly influence people’s attitudes and worldviews.
What peace journalism lacks, however, is a substantial body of evidence demonstrating precisely how it works. So, towards the end of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, it was good to discover a story highlighting peace journalism in practice.
On Canada’s Highway of Tears is an account of Canada’s apparent failure to stem the tide of violence facing aboriginal women, 18 of whom have been the victims of unsolved murders in a 35-year period. Critical of the media’s misrepresentation of this issue, the article clearly shows how unbiased yet objective coverage can shed light, inform, and help correct an injustice.
In too many parts of the world to name – and in a home or community very close to you – violence against women is on the increase. Enlisting the support of the media is absolutely vital to increasing public awareness and stemming the tide.