For our broadcast ejo! Broadcasted on the voice of America and our other media projects (Prints, debates) we use the approach of conflict-sensitive journalism.
What does it mean?
To us it means that we are committed to a positive role of journalism within the Rwandan peacebuilding process. Before and during the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 many journalists became propagandists of racial hatred and contributed actively to the outbreak of genocide in Rwanda.
We don’t want to forget the bad acts these journalists have committed in the past. They deviated from all professional journalistic standards to assume the role of arbitrators of life and death.
That’s why we stand for a responsible form of journalism which reflects on the consequences the publication of information can have. Journalists don’t have the role to act as peace activists by themselves. By doing so, they would lose their professional independence. And they are not there to just report on peace initiatives which are going on in their country. In this case they wouldn’t be impartial journalists any more but become advocacy workers.
But journalists are able to contribute to the peacebuilding process in their country by publishing verified information and by giving voice to all social groups which can be found in society. And they can help their audience to understand the conflicts which are there.
Ross Howard, a Canadian journalist and expert in conflict-sensitive journalism, says: “Professional journalists do not set out to reduce conflict. They seek to present accurate and impartial news. But it is often through good reporting that conflict is reduced.”
In this sense we try to learn as much as possible in the domain of professional journalism as well as in the domain of conflict transformation.
Even if we prefer the concept of conflict-sensitive journalism, we use some principles which go back to the concept of peace journalism represented by the Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung, by the Australian Professor Jake Lynch who heads Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and Annabel McGoldrick who is lecturer at the same university.
Here are some principles of our conflict-sensitive journalistic work:
We can observe that journalists all over the world tend to start their reporting on conflicts only at the moment when violence breaks out. They describe the violence they can see but they neglect to talk about the roots of the conflicts and how the conflict could develop. But conflicts have different levels and usually only the highly escalated ones are related to violence. That’s why Ejo Youth Echo pays attention to start their reporting at the early stages of conflict. We produce broadcasts in which people can express their different points of views related to a chosen topic. By providing them a forum to talk about their different opinions in public, they get the opportunity to discuss peacefully and to understand the positions of the different people who are involved in the conflict.
Another main principle which Ejo Youth Echo uses is to give voice to ordinary people of the Rwandan society, especially to the youth which is still underrepresented in the media discourse. For each of their broadcasts, the young EYE-members conduct interviews with officials as well as with ordinary young people. By doing so, their broadcasts create a space for dialogue between different social groups and between different generations.
People who feel that their points of views are heard in public are less likely to use violent means in case of conflict.
Ejo Youth Echo does not only focus on things that do not work but they also report on events, cultural traditions and positive attitudes that unite the Rwandan youth and the youth of the neighboring countries. By reporting on what people in the region have in common they break through the dynamic of a negative and only sensation-seeking reporting.
The use of language is crucial in the domain of journalism. Journalists can use words and expressions which hurt and upset people or they can use a conflict-sensitive wording which takes account of the needs of the different parties in conflict. By choosing our words carefully we contribute to a peaceful discussion culture in our country.
Finally, it is important to us that our newsroom is diverse. The young EYE- journalists belong to very different identity groups and are able to bring in different perspectives. For example, our newsroom consists of a similar number of male and female journalists.