Using the example of the First World War, the American political scientist Harold Lasswell described that reporting on war was hardly distinguishable from propaganda. This can still be observed today in parts of journalistic reporting on wars. This makes it useful to carry out further analyzes of how wars and conflicts can be reported more appropriately. Wilhelm Kempf is someone who has dealt particularly intensively with the concept of peace journalism and is also familiar with the criticism of the concept. He draws a preliminary balance sheet in a narrow volume.
He implicitly clears up a misunderstanding that is rooted in the interpretation of the name peace journalism and slightly obscures the view of the potential of the concept. Peace journalism is neither a panacea nor an idealistic cotton ball for dream dancers; he cannot make peace and cannot inculcate a will to resolve the conflict in opponents.
The core of the concept as it is understood today is conflict competence. This begins with the appropriate reporting of negotiations and conflict events and includes the classification of how negotiations are conducted, who is pursuing which positions, where historical lines of conflict run and how socio-structural and societal beliefs change during the conflict. In this way, it helps to obtain the knowledge that is necessary for the settlement of a dispute. The goal is not peace activism.
Conflict competence means looking beyond the horizon with as broad a view as possible. Peace journalism can also be a cooperation concept: war reporters convey what is happening on the conflict or battlefield, foreign journalists explain the country and the mentality of the people, diplomatic journalists contribute their expertise from observing different negotiating tables.
Peace journalism is an interface concept that should fulfill three basic conditions: In order to be able to report from the necessary distance in a conflict-sensitive manner, journalists must capture the escalation and de-escalation dynamics of conflicts, including the misperceptions that are often encountered. You must know the specific conflict. And they need a reasonable distrust of what is all too plausible to themselves. So you have to proceed falsificatory and ask yourself what speaks against your own thesis.
Annika Sehl and Sonja Kretzschmar introduce the volume with a classification into journalism research, which builds a bridge to their research and development project “Media for Peace”, which is located at the University of the Bundeswehr and will run until the end of 2024.
Based on social media analyses, among other things, they want to use the potential of digitization in order to develop a platform for conflict-competent reporting that is useful for military and civil society actors.