During the past decade, the phenomenon of recurring conflict has come to play an increasingly visible role in thinking about the nature of peace and conflict, more explicitly recognising the cyclical nature of escalation and the intricate nexus between often artificially separated conflict phases of prevention, escalation and post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation (see e.g. World Bank, 2011). Even more so than before, in the twenty-first century, violent conflict seems to have become one mechanism employed in creating vicious circles, enclosing whole societies - or in the words of Paul Collier the 'bottom billion' (2007) - in a seemingly endless, self-sustaining trap.
In this article it is argued that in the context of critical media and cultural studies' emphasis on ideology, the accent in understanding peace journalism frequently falls on peace journalism as advocacy journalism and on peace journalism as an ideological manipulation of the representation of war, conflict, terrorism, protest and violence. For an alternative understanding of peace journalism, and in the light of renewed academic interest in the understanding of world and life view as a comprehensive set of values underlying cognition and representation, this article suggests a focus on the description and analyses of the a priori values underlying a journalist's world and life view and demonstrates how such values may or may not be rooted in a fundamental world and life view predisposed to peace versus violence and war as a solution to conflict. Given world and life view's emphasis on meaning and meaning-making, the article then suggests an understanding of peace journalism and an understanding among journalists of their work, as a semiotic act and as such signifying and representing the values of world and life views in rhetorical and dialogical ways. Such an understanding and consciousness may lead to heightened journalistic sensitivity regarding how war, violence, conflict and hate are reported. This article deals in consecutive parts with the topics peace journalism, world and life view as a construct and its possible application in the field of peace journalism, and journalism as a semiotic act, characterised by signification, representation, rhetoric and dialogue as four of the main building blocks of journalistic communication, including peace journalism.
This article presents a theoretical exploration of the concept of peace journalism. It assesses its usefulness for strengthening existing practices in the South African media. Peace journalism addresses issues around journalistic practices in relation to story selection and presentation with the aim of facilitating non-violent responses to real and potential conflict. There is no doubt that commercial media coverage often relies on sensational and inflammatory discourse to attract consumers (audience), and that, even during times of peace, political communication frequently incorporates conflict or war terminology. Given the potential for individual and intergroup violence (actual or latent) due to the diverse nature of the population and South Africa's historical legacies, there is a need to address peace-communication concerns on a continuous basis. This article is based on a review of seminal literature in the field and also on the discussion and findings of a round table conducted at the University of Johannesburg on 27 and 28 October 2011 with a number of South African academics and representatives of national media-monitoring organisations.
Against the backdrop of the many social ills affecting the country, South Africa continues to make strides in the creation of a non-racist, non-sexist and non-violent society. The media's role in this endeavour is important. Hence, this research examined whether the media in South Africa offered alternatives to violence in their coverage of the municipal protests recorded between 2009 and 2011. The research revealed that the media's coverage of these protests was narrow and partial. In order for the coverage to be holistic, it is critical that the media go beyond reporting the violence, its causes and its effects to offering alternatives to violence. However, offering alternatives to violence is not the magic tool to prevent or even stop violence - it is a professional activity that highlights the key issues the media could focus on in order fully to inform the audience in the public interest. It is also about socially responsible media.
This article looks at reporting practices in the South African news media with regard to online sources and the realisation of peace journalism. Based on data collected from questionnaires and interviews with journalists, media scholars and media monitors in South Africa, the article explores their responses to suggestions that Internet sources are more politically biased than are traditional sources and determines both the extent to which journalists use them and the extent to which they should rely on online sources. The discussion around online sources and potential bias and even hate speech is linked up with normative ideas and debates around peace journalism in the South African news media and the promise of peace journalism through the usage of alternative news sources.