From war journalism to peace journalism: Re-inventing peace journalism through audience oppositional reading of terrorism news online

  • David Katiambo Stellenbosch University


Coverage of terrorism can be categorized into either peace journalism or war journalism. Peace journalism highlights peace initiatives and tones down differences, while war journalism emphasizes differences, often legitimizing violence as the means to peace. This article analyses the war/peace journalism binaries by newspapers in reporting  the 2015 terror attack on Kenya’s Garissa University. The article considers an oppositional reading of mainstream media through social media comments. By allowing opposition reading, social media enables the audience to challenge the war journalism that is prominent in mainstream media reporting of terrorism. While war journalism legitimizes violence as the key counter-terrorism strategy, peace journalism seeks to reveal the root causes of conflict. Although the concept of peace journalism is well grounded, its application to oppositional readings of terrorism news remains under-theorized because terrorism is still outside the bounds of what is considered legitimate war. Reporting from a war journalism perspective, the mainstream media focused on coverage that delegitimized terrorism and paid scant attention to alternative understandings of the event. . Contrary, comments on social media discussed terrorism from a peace journalism perspective, focusing on the root cause as well as possible solutions. As part of peace promotion efforts, this study proposes that journalists should be critical of the dominant knowledge structure and report terrorism from a peace journalism perspective. Key words: Al-Shabaab, Peace journalism, terrorism, war, violence, media, news, social media, oppositional reading.
Academic Papers