Lee, Seow Ting. and Maslog, Crispin. "War or Peace Journalism? Asian Newspaper Coverage of Conflicts." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, New Orleans Sheraton, New Orleans, LA, May 27, 2004 . 2008-10-10 http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p112365_index.html



This five-country study examines the extent to which four regional conflicts involving India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines are framed as war journalism or peace journalism based on Johan Galtung’s classification. A content analysis of 1,338 stories from 10 newspapers suggests that, overall, the news coverage of these conflicts is dominated by a war journalism frame. The Indian and Pakistani coverage of the Kashmir issue shows the strongest war journalism framing while the coverage of the Tamil Tiger movement and the Mindanao conflict by the Sri Lankan and the Philippine newspapers reveals a more promising peace journalism framing. The three most salient indicators of peace journalism are the avoidance of demonizing language, a non-partisan approach, and a multi-party orientation. The war journalism frame is supported by a focus on the here and now, an elite orientation, and a dichotomy of good and bad.


The news coverage of conflict, or war reporting, is grounded in the notion of conflict as a news value. As a result, war reporting is often sensational, sexy, and a mere device to boost circulations and ratings (Toffler & Toffler, 1994; Hachten, 1999; Allen & Seaton, 1999). According to Knightley (2000), war journalism is characterized by an identification with one or the home side of the conflict; military triumphantist language; an action-oriented focus; and a superficial narrative with little context, background or historical perspective.

In recent years, some journalism scholars have suggested that journalists discard war reporting in favor of peace journalism to help promote a culture of peace. Norwegian scholar Johan Galtung first proposed peace journalism in the 1970s as a self-conscious, working concept for journalists covering wars and conflicts (McGoldrick & Lynch, 2000). Peace journalism is an advocacy, interpretative approach to reporting on war, conflict and violence (Galtung, 1986, 1998). The peace journalist concentrates on stories that highlight peace initiatives; tone down ethnic and religious differences; prevent further conflict; focus on the structure of society; and promote conflict resolution, reconstruction and reconciliation. Galtung (2002) observed that traditional war journalism is modeled after sports journalism, with a focus on winning as the only thing in a zero-sum game. In Galtung’s vision, peace journalism approximates health journalism. A good health reporter would describe a patient’s battle against cancer and yet inform readers about the cancer’s causes as well as the full range of possible cures and preventive measures.

McGoldrick and Lynch (2000) described peace journalism as a “broader, fairer and more accurate way of framing stories, drawing on the insights of conflict analysis and transformation.” The definition is premised on the importance of journalists understanding conflict and violence because what they report will contribute to the momentum toward war or toward peace. Lynch (2000) viewed peace journalism as a strategy that offers creative solutions by mapping a conflict as consisting of many parties and many issues. It is based on the idea that “complex, interlocking pattern of fears, inequities and resentments can only be overcome by seeking, devising, and implementing complex, interlocking solutions.”

At first glance, peace journalism runs counter to the time-honored journalistic principle of objectivity that sees the journalist as a neutral, uninvolved, unbiased mirror in which reality is reflected. “We just report the facts,” maintains the journalist—even if sometimes the facts may hide the truth. Iggers (1998) noted that journalistic objectivity is dead, but “isn’t dead enough” because journalists continue to conjure it as the elusive Holy Grail (p. 90). The idea of media playing a contributory role in society implies that journalists who just report the facts are acting irresponsibly. According to Iggers: “Although few journalists still defend the idea of objectivity, it remains one of the greatest obstacles to their playing a more responsible and constructive role in public life” (p. 91). In this sense, journalism should be about intervention, McGoldrick and Lynch (2000) argued. “The choice is about the ethics of that intervention—therefore the question becomes ‘what can I do with my intervention to enhance the prospects for peace?’ ” McGoldrick and Lynch believed that over time, peace journalism can “help to broaden and deepen the literacy within society about non-violence and creativity in thinking about conflicts.”

Even factual reporting by itself may be of little use, Iggers (1998) observed. By focusing on facts and overt events, objective reporting “devalues ideas and fragments experience, thus making complex social phenomena more difficult to understand” (pp. 106-107). Iggers’ argument makes a moral case for advocacy journalism—the non-objective, self-conscious intervention of the journalist premised in the ideas of public journalism, development journalism, and peace journalism. Furthermore, factual reporting of war is a chimera; the ingredients of war or conflict—patriotism, national interest, anger, censorship and propaganda—often conspire to prevent objective, factual, evenhanded reporting (see Carruthers, 2000; Iggers, 1998; Knightley, 1975; Pedelty, 1995; Van Ginneken, 1998).

Pedelty’s (1995), in a study of war reporting of the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s and early 1990s, showed how institutional influences shaped a war correspondent’s work. Pedelty reproduced verbatim two reports about the shooting down of a US military helicopter by El Salvadoran rebels. Both reports were written by the same correspondent, but one was for an American newspaper, and the other for a European paper. The U.S.-bound story was framed to validate the anger of U.S. officials and legitimize the predicted release of aid to fight the rebels while the Europe-bound report was framed as sympathy for the rebels. Van Ginneken (1998) observed that large news organizations have ritualized news values and constraints to the extent that war correspondents are not aware of how their stories are selected for coverage and framed.

Galtung’s (1986, 1998) concept of peace journalism was developed further by TRANSCEND, a non-profit organization founded by Galtung himself to advance his ideas of peace. In the late 1990s, Galtung’s ideas were picked up by the U.K.-based Conflict and Peace Forums (CPF), which refined his model through dialogues with journalists, mainly in a series of annual conferences. Following these meetings, CPF published four booklets: The Peace Journalism Option (Lynch, 1998), What Are Journalists For? (Lynch, 1999), Using Conflict Analysis in Reporting (Lynch, 2000), and Reporting the World (2002). These publications are mainly how-to manuals based on anecdotes and case studies.

Thus, the concept of peace journalism may have emerged more than three decades ago, but it has not gained wide acceptance among journalists nor attracted adequate attention from researchers. There is little, if any, empirical research on peace journalism, which is all the more relevant today in a world racked by strife and conflict. Few, if any, past studies have operationalized peace journalism. Thus, peace journalism made a leap from theory to practice without the benefit of research. This study, as an attempt to fill that gap, focuses on the news coverage of four Asian conflicts. Specifically, the researchers are interested in the coverage of the dispute between India and Pakistan over control of the Himalayan region of Kashmir; the Tamil Tigers or LTTE’s (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) movement to establish an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka; the civil wars in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and Maluku; and the Muslim separatist movement in Southern Mindanao, the Philippines.

Literature Review

While there exists a vast body of literature and scholarly research on war reporting (e.g., Carruthers, 2000; Hallin, 1986; Hallin & Gitlin, 1994; Iyengar & Simon, 1994; Knightley, 1975; Lang & Lang, 1994), most of the literature on peace journalism or peace communication is normative or prescriptive, outlining the benefits of peace journalism and detailing how it can be implemented (e.g., Galtung, 1986, 1998; Lynch, 1998; Manoff, 1998; McGoldrick & Lynch, 2000; Lynch, 2003a, 2003b). Galtung’s (1986, 1998) classification of war journalism and peace journalism is based on four broad practice and linguistic orientations: peace/conflict, truth, people, and solutions. In contrast, war journalism is oriented in war/violence, propaganda, elites, and victory. Apart from considering content, Galtung’s classification included the assessment of language for words that are demonizing, victimizing, or emotive.

Galtung’s labeling of peace journalism as both peace- and conflict-oriented may appear paradoxical but in reality, peace-oriented journalists must first accept that a conflict exists, and explore conflict formations by identifying the parties, goals and issues. Such journalists understand the conflict’s historical and cultural roots, and by giving voice to all parties (not only two opposing sides), create empathy and understanding. Through careful, consistent and conscientious application of peace journalism practices in reports of the conflict, the peace journalist hopes to create a setting in which the causes of and possible solutions to the conflict become transparent and obvious.

Other important peace journalism approaches prescribed by Galtung include taking a preventive advocacy stance, for example, writing editorials and columns urging reconciliation and focusing on common ground rather than on vengeance, retaliation, and differences, and emphasizing the invisible effects of violence (e.g., emotional trauma, and damage to social structure and culture). In contrast, the traditional war journalism approach plays up conflict as an arena where participants are grouped starkly into two opposing sides (“them-vs.-us”) in a zero- sum game, and focuses on the visible effects of war (casualties, injuries, and damage to property). War journalism also is practiced in “a closed space and a closed time” (a battlefield bounded by terrain and time constraints), and puts blame on the party that “threw the first stone.”

Galtung’s (1998) classification of war journalism and peace journalism was expanded by McGoldrick and Lynch (2000) into 17 good practices of a peace journalist. The practices, which resemble advice for journalists before they begin reporting, included focusing on presentation of solutions, reporting on long-term effects, orientating the news on people and the grassroots, searching for common ground, reporting on all sides, and using precise, accurate language.

Maslog (1990), in an application of peace journalistic principles, offers a manual based on the conflict in Mindanao in southern Philippines as a guiding example for reporters practicing peace journalism. In a series of explanatory pointers, Maslog provides a contextual and historical background to clarify the differences between Muslims and Christians and, more importantly, the common grounds that united them. Advice to journalists in this aspect included avoiding mention of issues that are culturally offensive like the pork-eating of Christians and the polygamous practice of Muslims. Another important principle is linguistic accuracy. Criminals, for instance, are criminals and not “Muslim bandits.” “Rebels,” according to Maslog, should be identified as dissidents of a particular political grouping, such as “MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) dissidents” and not simply “Muslim rebels”.

Wolfsfeld (1997), who examined the role of the news media in the Middle East, found that the media’s pursuit of drama accorded the extremists from both sides more than their due share of air time, while drowning the voices calling for peace and resolution. Wolfsfeld (1999), using a structural-cultural model, explained how the different roles played by news media in various political conflicts were shaped directly by competition among the antagonists to control the media. Carruthers (2000) suggested that the mass media, subjected to restrictions of state and military censorship, employed the same values, practices and priorities in reporting conflict as in covering other events. As a result, mass media in following the lead of the state, become willing accomplices in wartime propaganda, and may even play a significant role in instigating conflict.

Richards (2001), who studied conflict resolution language, observed that journalists, who rely on conflict to tell the news, apply a “fighting frame” by focusing on positions without exploring what lies behind them. Manoff (1998, 2000), using conflict resolution theory, identified 12 roles for the media in reporting violence and conflict constructively: (1) channelling communication between parties; (2) educating; (3) building; (4) counteracting misperceptions; (5) analyzing conflict; (6) de- objectifying the protagonists for each other; (7) identifying the interests underlying the issues; (8) providing an emotional outlet; (9) encouraging a balance of power; (10) framing and defining the conflict; (11) face saving and consensus building; and (12) solution building.

Theoretically, peace journalism is supported by framing theory. There is no one standard definition of framing (see Entman, 1993; McCombs, Lopez-Escobar, & Llamas, 2000; Scheufele, 1999) but broadly, news framing refers to the process of organizing a news story, thematically, stylistically and factually, to convey a specific story line. More recently, the concept of framing has been explicated as second-level agenda setting (Jasperson et al., 1998; McCombs, 1994; McCombs & Bell, 1996; McCombs & Evatt, 1995; McCombs, Shaw, & Weaver, 1997). McCombs, Shaw, and Weaver (1997) argued that the concepts of agenda-setting and framing represent a convergence, in that framing is an extension of agenda-setting. Object salience is transmitted in the first level of agenda setting process. In the second level, framing, viewed as indicator salience, illustrates how the media tell us how to think about something—a reprisal of Bernard Cohen’s famous statement that the media tell us what to think about. New research has quickly followed the expanded theoretical discussions on framing as a second level of agenda setting. Framing is found to activate specific thoughts and ideas for news audiences, as seen in the vast body of framing effects research (e.g., Iyengar, 1991; McLeod & Detenber, 1999; Miller, Andsager, & Reichert, 1998; Price, Tewksbury, & Powers, 1997; Sotirovic, 2000).

According to Entman (1993), “to frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described” (p. 52). Tankard et al. (1991) described a media frame as “the central organizing idea for news content that supplies a context and suggests what the issue is through the use of selection, emphasis, exclusion and elaboration” (p. 3). Frames package key ideas, stock phrases, and stereotypical images to bolster a particular interpretation. Through repetition, placement and reinforcement, the texts and images that constitute the frame provide a dominant interpretation more readily perceivable, acceptable, and memorable than other interpretations (Entman, 1991). Gamson (1992) identified four frames used in the news framing of the Arab-Israeli conflict: strategic interests, feuding neighbors, Arab intransigence, and Israeli expansionism. By charting the development of the four frames in the Arab-Israeli conflict over nine periods, Gamson found “feuding neighbors” to be the most consistent frame.

In this study, a news frame refers to an interpretive structure that sets specific events within a comprehensive context. Based on this definition, war journalism and peace journalism are two competing frames in the news coverage of a conflict. Peace journalism proponents believe that through active journalistic intervention, a story about war, conflict or violence can be framed in an interpretive and constructive manner to foster peace and conflict resolution. Of interest in this study is the extent of the actualization of war/peace journalism frames in the news coverage of four Asian regional conflicts. Based on Galtung’s (1986, 1998) classification of war/peace journalism, two research questions are posed:

RQ1: To what extent does the five countries’ coverage of the four regional conflicts reflect war/peace journalism frames?

RQ2: What are the salient indicators of war/peace journalism manifest in the news coverage of these four regional conflicts?


This study is based on a content analysis of 1,338 newspaper stories from 10 English- language daily newspapers from the five Asian countries involved in the four regional conflicts. The unit of analysis was the individual story, a definition that included “hard” news stories, feature stories, opinion pieces, and letters to the editor. The stories were content analyzed by six graduate students in mass communication between March and May 2003. The five countries and 10 newspapers were:

  1. India: Times of India (122 stories); Hindustan Times (137); Statesman (91);
  2. Pakistan: Dawn (131); Pakistan News Service (261);
  3. The Philippines: Philippine Daily Inquirer (122); Philippine Star (61);
  4. Indonesia: Jakarta Post (189); and
  5. Sri Lanka: Daily News & Sunday Observer (145); Daily Mirror (79).
The stories from each newspaper were harvested from issues published during a specific period of conflict: February 15-May 31, 2002 (Kashmir); February 10-17, 2003 and April 1-June 30, 2000 (Philippine Mindanao conflict); August 1, 2001-February 28, 2002 (Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers); and January 19-April 18, 1999, October 1-December 31, 2001, and March 1 to August 31, 2002 (Indonesia’s Maluku and Aceh civil wars).

These periods were selected because they represented the most recent peak periods of these conflicts, some of which date back to at least five decades. The February 15-May 31, 2002 period was a particularly tense episode between Pakistan and India, following a December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament that was blamed on Pakistan, and an ensuing heated exchange of words that sent the two neighbors to the brink of nuclear war. From March to June 2000, former Philippine president Estrada declared an “all-out war policy” against the Mindanao groups, and February 10-17 saw one of the bloodiest skirmishes between Mindanao’s Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine armed forces. (The MILF is one of the two Muslim separatist movements in Mindanao, the other being the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The MILF was founded by a breakaway faction of the MNLF in the 1970s. The MILF seeks total independence from the Philippines but the MNLF wants to form an autonomous region. ) In the case of Sri Lanka (The Tamils, who are Hindus, are a minority in Sri Lanka, a country with a Sinhalese-Buddhist majority. In the 1970s, Tamil politicians began demanding a separate Tamil state, or “Tamil Eelam,” in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, areas of traditional Tamil settlement. Tamil groups, particularly the LTTE, sought an independent state by force. ) , in July 2001, the LTTE stormed Colombo’s International Airport, destroying planes on the runway. The period of August 1, 2001-February 28, 2002 also covered the timeframe before and after the December 2001 ceasefire between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government. In the case of Indonesia (Indonesia, the world’s fifth-largest country, has the world’s largest Muslim population. Although 90 percent of its population consider themselves Muslims, Indonesia is not an official Islamic state. In the 1950s, the Indonesian province of Aceh begun seeking to free itself from central Indonesian rule and to establish an independent Islamic republic. Among the issues of contention were the legitimacy of Islamic rule in Aceh, and tensions between Acehnese and the Javanese-controlled central government based in Jakarta. Religion also played a role in the civil war in Maluku, which resulted from the conflict between its Muslim and Christian communities.) , the Maluku conflict erupted on January 19, 1999 and raged until mid-April 1999. Thus, the period of January 19-April 18, 1999 was selected for analysis. Between October and December 2001, the conflict re-ignited. Hence, a second period—October 1-December 31, 2001—was included. The Free Aceh movement began in the 1950s. Hence, the most recent period of conflict, March 1-August 31, 2002 was analyzed. About half of the stories were obtained from the Lexis-Nexis and Factiva online databases. In the case of newspapers not archived on Lexis-Nexis or Factiva, such as Pakistan’s Dawn, the Philippine Star, the Pakistan News Service, and the two Sri Lankan newspapers (Daily News & Sunday Observer and Daily Mirror), the stories were obtained through the respective news organization’s online archival service. (Pakistan News Service: http://www.paknews.com, Pakistan Dawn: http://www.dawn.com; Philippine Star: http://www.philstar.com; Sri Lanka Daily News & Sunday Observer: http://www.dailynews.lk; Sri Lanka Daily Mirror: http:www.dailymirror.lk) Although the search for stories was initiated by keywords, for example, “Kashmir” for Indian and Pakistani newspapers, all downloaded stories were read for direct relevance to the Kashmir conflict. (Stories that reported or commented on, say, Indian parliamentary debates or political activities but with Kashmir mentioned only in passing were rejected, for example, stories that reported on the setting up of foreign businesses or the development of hydroelectric power. The basis for inclusion is that the story is about the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir—the violence, clashes, casualties, debates, diplomatic activities, political speeches and developments relating to the conflict. A small number of stories that were datelined outside the subcontinent—in Washington, London or the UN, were considered relevant and were included because they covered India or Pakistan’s diplomatic activities and positionings over the Kashmir conflict.)

The coding categories were based on Galtung’s (1986, 1998) classification of war/peace journalism. The stories were assessed according to 13 indicators of war journalism and another 13 indicators of peace journalism (see Appendix). These indicators, which were used to elicit from the body text of each story which frame—war journalism or peace journalism—dominates the narrative, comprised two themes: approach and language. The approach-based criteria included orientations such as zero-sum/win-win, partisan/non-partisan, reactive/proactive, elite-oriented/people-oriented, etc. The language-based criteria included the use of demonizing language, victimizing language, and emotive/objective words. For example, a story is judged if it is reactive (“Does it wait for war to break out before reporting it?”); whether it reports mainly on the visible effects of war (“Does it focus on casualties, death toll, damage to property?”); and whether it is partisan (“Is it biased for one side in the conflict?”), etc. In this way, the approaches and language of war journalism and peace journalism were measured on indexes. Based on the final scores, the coder decided whether the story is framed as war journalism, peace journalism, or neutral. The war journalism index ranged from 0 to 13, with a mean of 3.90 and a standard deviation of 2.60 (Cronbach’s alpha= .7235). The peace journalism index ranged from 0 to 13, with a mean of 2.98 and a standard deviation of 2.73 (Cronbach’s alpha= .7777). In terms of inter-coder reliability, a coding of a sample of 100 stories (7.5% of total stories) produced a Scott’s pi of between .76 and .93, which is considered acceptable. Only two categories—whether there is indication of the media leaving the scene or staying on the scene to report the aftermath of war—recorded a Scott’s pi lower than .80.


Of the 1,338 stories, 1,018 (76.1%) were “hard” news stories; 134 (10.0%) were features (10.0%); 121 (9.0%) were opinion pieces including editorials; and 65 (4.9%) were categorized as “others” that included letters to the editor and speech transcripts. Of the sample, only a small number of stories—137 or 10.2%—were produced by foreign wire services such as the AP, CNN, BBC, Reuters, and AFP, etc. That the majority of the stories—1,201 or 89.8%—were produced by local sources was unsurprising considering that these conflicts were localized; there was little need for the newspapers to turn to foreign wire services. Of the 1,201 stories produced locally, the majority—1,156 (96.2%) were written by the newspapers’ reporters or correspondents, compared to 16 stories (1.3%) sourced from national news agencies, and 29 stories (2.4%) contributed by freelance journalists, academics, and members of the public.

A Dominant War Journalism Framing

For RQ1, out of the 1,338 stories, 749 stories (56%) were framed as war journalism, compared to 478 stories (35.7%) framed as peace journalism, and 111 stories (8.3%) that were neutral. Overall in the sample, the war journalism frame was more dominant than peace journalism or neutral frames, Χ2 (2, N=1,338) =459.771, p<.0001. The five countries differed in their war/peace/neutral framing of stories, Χ2 (4, N=1,338) =140.139, p<.001 (see Table 1). The frames also differed across the 10 papers, Χ2 (9, N=1,338)=222.598, p<.0001.

The strongest war journalism framing was seen in the Kashmir coverage by Pakistan and India, followed by Indonesia, Philippines, and Sri Lanka (see Table 1). Conversely, the strongest peace journalism framing was from Sri Lanka, followed by the Philippines, Indonesia, India, and Pakistan. The following discusses the patterns of war/peace journalism framing for each country.

Kashmir. Although the war journalism frame was the strongest in the coverage of the Kashmir issue by the Pakistani and Indian newspapers, the two countries differed in their framing of war/peace/neutral stories, with a significantly higher proportion of war journalism frames observed for Pakistan (74.2%) than for India (63.7%), Χ2 (2, N=742)=10.886, p<.005. Excluding the neutral frames, the difference in war/peace journalism stories also was significant between the two countries, Χ2 (1, N=687)=169.251, p<.001. Based on the war journalism index, the Pakistani papers showed a stronger war journalism frame than the Indian papers, t(741)=3.118, p<.005. The distribution of war/peace/neutral stories also differed among the five newspapers, Χ2 (8, N=742)=23.104, p<.005. The strongest war journalism framing is by the Pakistan News Service; nearly 80% of its stories were framed as war journalism, followed by the Statesmen (67%), Hindustan Times (66.4%), Pakistan Dawn (65.6%), and Times of India (59%).

As expected, the Pakistan News Service, as a national news agency, demonstrated the highest number of war journalism frames among the 10 news organizations. Overall, stories produced by national news agencies were observed to have a significantly higher proportion of war journalism frames (78.7%) than stories produced by independent news organizations (50%), Χ2 (2, N=1,338)=76.383, p<.001. However, when excluding the neutral frames, although national news agencies produced more war journalism stories and fewer peace journalism stories than did the independent news agencies, statistical significance was absent, Χ2 (2, N=1,172)=2.561, p<.278.

Indonesia. Overall, there was a significant difference in the distribution of war/peace/neutral frames in the Jakarta Post; 48% of the 189 stories were framed as war journalism, compared to 41.8% framed as peace journalism, and 10.1% of neutral stories, Χ2 (2, N=189)=47.238, p<.001. Excluding the neutral frames, there was a higher proportion of war journalism frames compared to peace journalism frames, but statistical significance was absent, Χ2 (1, N=170)=.847, p<.357.

The Jakarta Post published 110 articles on the Free Aceh movement, and 79 on the Maluku conflict. Comparing the Maluku and Aceh civil wars, however, 37.31% of articles about the Free Aceh movement were framed as war journalism compared to 54.5% peace journalism, and 8.2% neutral. In contrast, the stories on the Maluku conflict showed a more salient war journalism frame—63.3% compared to 24.1% peace journalism, and 12.7% neutral. Clearly, the Jakarta Post’s coverage of the two Indonesian civil wars did not share the same distribution of war journalism, peace journalism and neutral frames, Χ2 (2, N=189)=17.610, p<.001. Excluding the neutral frames, the difference in war/peace journalism frames between the two civil wars was also significant, Χ2 (1, N=170)=16.738, p<.005.

Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tiger coverage by the Sri Lankan newspapers showed the strongest peace journalism framing. Of the 224 stories published in the Sri Lankan papers (Daily News & Sunday Observer and Daily Mirror), a higher proportion of peace journalism stories was observed—58.0% compared to 30.8% war journalism stories, and 11.8% neutral stories, Χ2 (2, N=224)=74.473, p<.001. Excluding the neutral frames, the war/peace journalism distribution was also significant, Χ2 (1, N=199)=18.698, p<.0005. The two papers differed in their distribution of war journalism, peace journalism, and neutral frames, Χ2 (2, N=224)=7.080, p<.05. A significantly higher proportion of peace journalism frames were found in the Daily Mirror than in the Daily News & Sunday Observer. Excluding the neutral frames, these two papers also differed in war/peace journalism frames, Χ2 (1, N=199)=18.698, p<.0005. Of the 79 stories from the Daily Mirror, 20.3% were war journalism stories, 64.6% were peace journalism, and 15.2% were neutral. Of the 145 stories from the Daily News & Sunday Observer, 36.6% were framed as war journalism, 54.5% were peace journalism, and 9.0% were neutral. There was a significant difference between the framing of stories before and after the December 2001 ceasefire (In January 1995, the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE agreed to a ceasefire as part of a government-initiated peace plan but after 3 months, the LTTE broke the ceasefire, prompting the government to fight back to liberate Jaffna from LTTE control by mid-1996 and to move against LTTE positions. In October 1999, the LTTE begun a counteroffensive, reversing most government gains and by May 2000 threatened government forces in Jaffna, with heavy fighting continuing into 2001. In December 2001, the United National Party won the national election. With a new government, the two sides declared unilateral ceasefires. In February 2002, with Norwegian facilitation, a joint ceasefire accord was forged. After several rounds of talks, the peace process broke down in 2003, although as of mid- 2003, the Norwegian-led efforts to revive the peace talks continue.) between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, Χ2 (2, N=224)=30.199, p<.001. Prior to December 2001, more war journalism stories were observed, whereas after December 2001, more peace journalism stories were found. Of the 153 stories published before the ceasefire, 40.5% were war journalism stories compared to 45.8% peace journalism stories and 13.7% neutral stories. After the ceasefire, of the 71 stories, only 9.9% were framed as war journalism compared to 84.5% peace journalism stories and 5.6% neutral stories.

Prior to the ceasefire, the two newspapers demonstrated a significant difference in distribution of war/peace/neutral stories, Χ2 (2, N=224)=14.377, p<.001. Before the ceasefire, the Daily News & Sunday Observer produced 51.5% of war journalism stories, compared to 38.4% of peace journalism stories, and 10.1% neutral stories. After the ceasefire, the number of war journalism stories dropped to 4.3% while peace journalism stories increased to 89.1%. Before the ceasefire, the Daily Mirror published 20.4% of war journalism stories, 59.3% of peace journalism stories, and 20.4% of neutral stories. After the ceasefire, the Daily Mirror’s war journalism stories remained at around 20.0% while peace journalism stories increased to 76.0%. As a result of increases in peace journalism stories, there was no significant difference in the post-ceasefire distribution of war/peace journalism stories between the two Χ2 (2, N=224)=4.538, p<.103. In summary, with the ceasefire, there appeared to be a clear change from a war journalism framing to a peace journalism framing in the Daily News & Sunday Observer. On the other hand, the change was less obvious in the Daily Mirror because it had a strong peace journalism framing even prior to the ceasefire.

The Philippines. Compared to the other four countries, the Philippine newspapers’ framing of war/peace journalism stories was less clear. Although the newspapers produced disproportionately more peace journalism stories compared to war journalism stories, statistical significance was absent, Χ2 (1, N=171)=2.579, p<.108. Including the neutral frames, of the 183 stories published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star, 41.0% were war journalism stories, 52.5% were peace journalism, and 6.6% were neutral, Χ2 (2, N=183)=62.656, p<.001. Of the 122 stories from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 34.4% of stories were framed as war journalism stories, 59.0% were peace journalism stories, and 6.6% were neutral. Of the 61 stories from the Philippine Star, 54.1% were framed as war journalism stories, compared to 39.3% of peace journalism stories and 6.6% of neutral stories. As such, there was a significant difference in the distribution of war/peace/neutral frames across the two newspapers, Χ2 (2, N=183)=6.840, p<.05. There was no statistical difference in the war/peace/neutral framing of the MNLF- and MILF-related stories, Χ2 (2, N=183)=4.379, p<.112.

Indicators of War Journalism and Peace Journalism

For RQ2, based on a frequency count of 5,220, the three most salient indicators of war journalism were: a focus on the here and now (17.6%), an elite orientation (15.4%), and a dichotomy of the good and the bad (10.3%)

Through a here-and-now perspective, the war journalism stories confined a conflict to a closed space and time, with little exploration of the causes and long-term effects of the conflict. Reporting only on the here and now is a common practice by newspapers, by focusing on only what is happening in the battlefield, the military clashes and the casualties, with very little backgrounding. These stories also tended to focus on the elites—political leaders and military officials—as actors and sources of information while ignoring the foot soldiers who fight the wars and the civilians who suffer the consequences of wars. Dichotomizing between the bad guys and the good guys involves simplistic moral judgment about the parties involved, and assigning blame to the party who started conflict.

The three most salient indicators of peace journalism, based on a frequency count of 9,104, were avoidance of demonizing language (15.9%), non-partisanship (13.8%), and multi-party orientation (12.8%). In avoiding demonizing language, the journalists provided more precise titles and/or name description to the players in the conflicts. By being non-partisan on an issue, journalists showed that their stories were not biased for one side in the conflict. In pursuing a multi-party orientation, stories gave a voice to the many parties involved in a conflict.

An examination of the Kashmir coverage, which showed the most salient war journalism framing among the four conflicts, revealed that the Indian and Pakistani’s war journalism framing was dependent on the following war journalism indicators (based on a frequency count of 3,558): a focus on the here and now (548 or 15.4%), the use of elites as actors and sources (501 or 14.1%), a), a partisan approach (390 or 11.0%), and an emphasis on differences (344 or 9.7%).

The Sri Lankan newspapers’ coverage of the LTTE issue, which exhibited the strongest peace journalism frame, was supported by the following peace journalism indicators (based on a frequency count of 1,148): an avoidance of good-bad label (155 or 13.5%), a non-partisan focus (148 or 12.9%), a multi-party orientation (119 or 10.4%), and a win-win approach (10.1%).

Other findings of interest. There was no relationship between story type (news, feature, opinion) and distribution of war journalism and peace journalism stories, Χ2 (6, N=1,338) =8.612, p<.197. In other words, whether a story was written as a news story, a feature piece, or an opinion piece had no bearing on the framing of the story as a war journalism or peace journalism story. However, there was a positive correlation between story length (in paragraphs) and the peace journalism index, (r=.156, p<.001). The longer the story, the more likely the story was framed as a peace journalism story. Conversely, there was a negative relationship between story length and the war journalism index (r=-.186, p<.001). Local sources produced more peace journalism frames and fewer war journalism frames compared to foreign wire Χ2 (2, N=1,338)=7.964, p<.05. Stories produced by local sources are significantly longer than stories produced by foreign wire services, t(1,336)=6.133, p<.0005. The mean length of a locally sourced story is 12.98 paragraphs compared to 8.77 paragraphs for a foreign wire story.


The purpose of this study is to offer a quantitative contribution to a topic that has received mostly normative and anecdotal discussion. By operationalizing Galtung’s (1986, 1998) classification of war/peace journalism, this study is able to measure the framing of Asian newspapers’ reporting of regional conflicts. The findings can help mass media training institutions customize peace journalism programs, and build a case for institutions to offer courses in peace journalism to help develop a culture of peace. It is also hoped that this exploratory study will help generate hypotheses for future studies examining the framing effects of war/peace journalism on public opinion and government/foreign policies.

Based on this sample, peace journalism is an ideal whose time has not come. First, the coverage of conflict by the 10 newspapers from the five Asian countries is dominated by war journalism. Pakistan and India, embroiled in a decades-old territorial battle over Kashmir, have demonstrated through the five newspapers that media continue to adopt a knee-jerk, unreflecting kind of coverage of conflicts, with little consideration for long-term, peaceful solutions. The strong war journalism framing by Indian and Pakistani newspapers is not unexpected. The conflict between Pakistan and India runs deep. The two countries have fought three wars, including two over the mostly Muslim region of Kashmir, which was divided between them after independence from Britain in 1947. The Kashmir issue, more than any other regional conflict examined in this study, is perhaps the most acrimonious, involving not only the divisive factor of religion but also the minefield of sovereignty between two nation states. In the war over Kashmir, it is likely the media reflected their government’s stands. A country’s media is not likely to remain neutral in reporting a conflict in which its government is involved (see Bennett, 2003; Carruthers, 2000; Combs, 1993; Hiebert, 2003; Iggers, 1998; Keeble, 1998; Knightley, 1975; Reese & Buckalew, 1995; Pedelty, 1995; Taylor, 1992; Van Ginneken, 1998).

The case of Sri Lanka offers some encouragement to peace journalism proponents. That a significant number of stories was framed as peace journalism may appear surprising in the case of this country, which has faced two decades of upheavals and violence as a result of the LTTE’s demands for an independent state. A possible explanation is that the August 1, 2001-February 28, 2002 timeframe of analysis covered the period when the government and LTTE were already attempting negotiations, under international pressure and suggestions for a peace treaty, although violence persisted. In 2000, the Sri Lankan government had asked the Norwegian government to be a peace facilitator. Hence, in the case of Sri Lanka, the content could have influenced the reporting. The clear shift from war journalism framing to that of peace journalism by the Sri Lankan newspapers after the December 2001 ceasefire agreement between the LTTE and the government may reflect a conscious effort by journalists to help promote a culture of peace through peace journalism. But it also could merely reflect a new political situation, especially the December 2001 change of government that initiated peace negotiations. Certainly, the measure of a true peace journalist lies in his work during a conflict, not after the conflict.

There is a large body of literature documenting the influence of government on the work of journalists in conflicts (e.g., Bennett, 2003; Carruthers, 2000; Combs, 1993; Hiebert, 2003; Keeble, 1998; Lynch, 2003a, 2003b; Reese & Buckalew, 1995; Taylor, 1992). Keeble (1998) who studied British press coverage of the 1991 and 1998 Iraq crises, suggested that the media serves a crucial propaganda function, not only through an elite conspiracy but also an ideology of news reporting adhering to a set of routines, constraints, expectations and myths. Reese and Buckalew (1995), who studied the news framing of the Gulf War, observed that “the interlocking and reinforcing triangle of government, news media and corporate needs works together to further a culture supportive of military adventures such as those in the Gulf” (p. 41). In the case of Sri Lanka, it is possible that the change of government and attendant changes in policy toward the LTTE could have shaped the journalists’ peace orientation in news coverage.

However, one small comfort comes from the Daily Mirror’s strong peace journalism framing prior to the ceasefire although the true picture for the Daily News & Sunday Observer’s stronger war framing prior to the ceasefire is less clear. What is clear is that different media outlets within the same cultural and political context do not frame an event the same way.

Another example of content shaping coverage is the Jakarta Post’s dissimilar framing of the Maluku and Aceh civil wars. At the time of the study, the Indonesian government and the GAM (Free Aceh Movement) were on their way to the negotiating table and disposed to discussing peace. The Swiss-based Henry Dunant Centre brokered a peace deal between GAM and the Indonesian military on December 9, 2002, a major breakthrough in 26 years of hostilities. Hence, the stronger peace journalism framing was evident in the coverage of the Aceh issue. On the other hand, the Maluku conflict was still raging, hence the stronger war journalism framing.

Second, although there are promising signs in the use of peace journalism frames in countries such as Sri Lanka and the Philippines, a closer examination of the pattern of war journalism and peace journalism indicators reveal that the peace journalism framing is highly dependent on what can be considered to be criteria of a less interventionist nature, for example, an avoidance of good-bad labels, a non-partisan approach, a multi-party orientation, and an avoidance of demonizing language. It can be argued that these four indicators, although important in the overall scheme of peace journalism as laid out by Galtung (1986, 1998), are mere extensions of the objectivity credo: reporting the facts as they are. These indicators do not truly exemplify a strong contributory, pro-active role by journalists to seek and offer creative solutions and to pave a way for peace and conflict resolution. For example, journalists often simplify storytelling by allowing only a set of villains and a set of victims in their stories about conflict. Thus, the inclusion of a multi-party orientation is a significant step forward in the peace journalism calculus but it does not take the story significantly beyond reporting the facts.

In summary, the pattern of salient indicators used to support the peace journalism frame falls short of Galtung’s characterization of peace journalism as an advocacy and interpretive approach oriented in peace-conflict, people, truth, and solution. While there is some demonstration of journalists’ understanding of the conflict by mapping out a conflict as consisting of many parties, there is little to show in terms of a solution-seeking approach, and more disappointingly, not many peace journalism stories are supported by a people-orientation.

With little focus on ordinary people, and without finding out what they want changed, and whether their position as stated by the elites are reflective of the true feelings on the ground, there is little that journalists can do to empower the ordinary people affected by the conflict in everyday life. The work of journalists follows predictable rituals, and the reliance on elites is one entrenched ritual. The literature on news sourcing suggests that reporters depend heavily on official sources that they perceive to be authoritative, credible, knowledgeable and powerful, and on official definitions (e.g., Fishman, 1980; Paletz & Entman, 1981; Sigal, 1973; Tuchman, 1978). McLeod and Hertog (1998) suggest that official sources are used to add prestige to a story, to make newsgathering more efficient, and to maintain the illusion of objectivity. The peace journalism frame also did not receive adequate support in terms of journalists focusing on the causes and consequences of a conflict. Without understanding the causes and consequences of a conflict, solutions cannot be found.

In this study, longer stories tend to exhibit more peace journalism indicators, and the shorter stories tend to be framed as war journalism. It is conceivable that longer stories allow journalists to take the time and effort to investigate an issue or event more fully and thoughtfully. Longer stories may allow journalists to move beyond mere reporting of facts into some analysis, and exploration of causes of and alternatives to conflict.

Interestingly, the foreign wire stories contain more war peace journalism frames and fewer peace journalism frames than stories produced locally by the newspapers’ own correspondents. One explanation is that reporting by foreign wire services is less involved and more detached (as seen in the shorter stories). Another explanation is that Western foreign news agencies tend to report violence and conflict more saliently than any other news stories from developing countries (e.g., Hachten, 1999; Hess, 1996; Riffe, Aust, Jone, Shoemaker, & Sundar, 1994; Rosenblum, 1979;). Developing nations dominate international news coverage when they are the scenes of disasters or great violence. In his study of U.S. media’s foreign news coverage, Hess (1996) found that the actions of foreign government, especially when they are related to violence and conflict, have the greatest chances of getting reported. Hence, it is unsurprising that the traditional war journalism frame prevailed more in foreign wire services copy than in locally produced copy.

This study has several limitations. The stories were downloaded from online archives. As a result, the prominence of a story’s display could not be determined. Many of the coding categories used for assessing narrative content were conceived by Galtung (1986, 1998) as a form of pre-publication criteria, posing a challenge for this content analysis of published stories. This study also was limited by its use of English-language Asian daily newspapers. Future research should consider the vernacular press.


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