The International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) in cooperation with Palestine News Network (PNN) held a workshop on Wednesday on the role of media in nonviolence in conflict areas.
The workshop is part of the activities of the International Conference on Nonviolence organized by US-based Nonviolence International and the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem.
Several journalists and nonviolent activists from different parts of the world were present. The participants of the workshop pointed out that media people are interested in covering violent activities much more than nonviolent activities.
A main focus in the workshop was on the coverage of news in the occupied Palestinian territories. A study made by American journalist, Alison Weir, published on her website called "If Americans Knew," was discussed in the workshop.
In her study, which focused on three major American media outlets, ABC, CBS and NBC, Weir says that there is over reporting for death cases among Israelis and under reporting of death cases among Palestinians, despite the fact that death rate among Palestinians as a result of the conflict is at least four times higher than among Israelis.
The study shows that ABC reported on 305 Israeli and 327 Palestinian deaths in the first year of the Intifada, whereas actual death cases were 165 Israeli and 549 Palestinian death cases as a result of the conflict. Meanwhile CBS reported on 344 Israeli, 296 Palestinian death cases, and NBC reported 227 and 190 Palestinian deaths.
Fadi Abu Saada, Chief Editor of PNN said journalists are trained or used to always focus on violence in their coverage.
"We had to train our reporters in nonviolence to shift their attention to nonviolence so we could cover nonviolent actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," Abu Saada added.
On the other hand, George Rishmawi director of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People, mother organization of IMEMC, said the main stream media dictates the readers what they should read, therefore, there is a need to promote alternative media sources to get a balanced view of the conflict.
"The main stream media dictates the readers the news, if the media covers violence only about a certain region, then readers will think that this region has violence only, therefore, there is a need to promote alternative media sources that reports also on nonviolence," Rishmawi added.
Robin Wagar an American peace activists said calling journalist to ask them to report on nonviolent actions and to thank write to other journalists to thank them on publishing nonviolent news could encourage journalists to write more about the nonviolent struggle.
The conference on nonviolent resistance, titled, "Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance" the first of its kind in Palestine, continues for the second day and will end on December 30. The conference attracts a number of International and local peace activists, scholars and organizations from different parts of the world.