A Journalist is not a Judge!

the Executive Director of the Nordic center for conflict transformation Naoufal Abboud

The peace is a process that should normally lead the parties to address their differences and accept a peace agreement. None of the parties should feel obligated to agree on a peace clause that they consider it as unjust and to which they won’t commit. This is the example of ceasefire agreements as example and that fail at a rate of 80%. This rate is even higher in the MENA region. Imposition is not proposition, and agreement must be genuinely accepted by the parties when seeking a sustained peace agreement. Advocacy is a good tool to influence the content on a peace agreement by reestablishing the power dynamics between the parties in conflict since Most of the current conflicts are asymmetric ones where one party has more power than the other. This asymmetries of power needs a specific approach in conflict transformation.

Advocacy tools can influence the content by rendering it more equal among the parties and, most importantly, more just and protective for civilians. Accordingly, advocacy in conflict transformation should not be understood in the sense to pressure and adding weight against the will of a given party in the conflict.

A journalist reporting in peace and conflicts has the role of a transmitter of information between the direct parties in a given conflict and the general public. “Peace and conflict” journalism is an investigative one and that normally constitutes a vehicle towards knowing the truth and not leading the public to form specific confrontational positions in the conflict.

The role of a journalist should be in line with the international orientations that occurred within the framework of international justice, from the Nuremberg trials to the national processes of reconciliation and transitional justice. The shift in international justice is that knowing the truth has become more important than punishment, even for victims and their families. This has been the case in South Africa, Rwanda, Morocco…. when an all-inclusive peace and reconciliation processes focused more on knowing the truth to address past atrocities. The journalist becomes a part of the solution by bringing the truth to the general public and diffusing any “infodemic” and fake news that only lead to misconceptions and builds destructive stereotypes against the “other”.

A journalist is not a judge, cannot represent a victim and even less public grievances. A journalist can only transcribe what others think objectively and an ethical manner, and is allowed to have personal positions, but this has to be outside the framework of journalism of conflicts, where journalist can be a peace facilitator or violence inciter. This can only be done through the human aspect of the role of journalism in facilitating a public perception that refutes violence and welcomes peace that is just for all. This journalism is truth and ethics  focused.

In conflicts, competition is the fire under the cause. It fuels the parties’ positions and hides the real incentives and interests behind those conflicting positions. In conflict transformation, the focus is on the parties’ interests and how they can be bridged within a framework of win-win. Competition could be considered an inherently human and will be a challenge to completely eliminate it. This is not the focus of conflict transformation, which essence is to  bring the parties together through a win-win approach by focusing on their interests in a given conflict.

The higher the stakes are in a conflict, the more the parties will have opposing elements and positions. Conflict transformation processes need time and will to work. The role and credibility of a third party is essential. A key challenge in conflict transformation process of a violent conflict is the identification of all warring parties, because in conflict transformation, the inclusion of all warring parties in peace negotiations is crucial. Isolation is the enemy of sustainability of peace agreements. It might be possible to start a conflict transformation process with some key actors but in a long run, other parties in a conflict will eventually want to join the negotiation in fear of being singled out and missed out from any agreements, including those over natural resources, for example.

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