Looking to gain wisdom, if not weight, in Ethiopia

By Steven Youngblood, director, Center for Global Peace Journalism, Park University, Parkville, MO

(EN ROUTE TO ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA)–In an environment where government media dominates, and where press are not free, how can reporters practice the principles of peace journalism?

This essential question will be driving me for the next five months in Ethiopia, where I will be living and teaching after being named a U.S. Senior Subject Specialist for Peace Journalism  in Ethiopia by the U.S. State Department and U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Indeed, this question about the possibilities and limitations of peace journalism was also a constant source of discussion during my first visit to Ethiopia last July. Other oft-repeated questions during that brief stay included these:

–Isn’t peace journalism just good journalism?

–Does peace journalism ignore stories that are violent, could fuel conflict, or upset people?
–If the government kills peaceful protesters like the case in Ethiopia? How can journalism be peaceful  under these circumstances? 
–Does peace journalism conflict with developmental  journalism?

I’ll keep these questions in mind as my work unfolds the week of Jan. 22 in Addis Ababa.  There, I’ll be meeting with African Union-accredited journalists; PhD students at Addis Ababa University;  and local journalists, including those working for Ethiopia Broadcast Service.

Then, it’s off to Gondar (also spelled Gonder) in the north of the country. There, I’ll be working with colleagues at Gondar University. I’ll be teaching PJ in special seminars and short courses, and will also integrate the concept into classes on Developmental Communication and Broadcast Writing. We plan to do several regional seminars for journalists in Gondar, and also travel to the surrounding regions as well.

This project has a million moving parts, and has taken a great deal of effort to put together. The staff in the public affairs office at the U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, especially Nick Barnett and Ali Suleiman, deserve roses for their patience and perseverance. The same can be said of my colleagues at Gondar University, Solomon Assefa and Mustofa Worku. Of course, they wouldn’t have had a chance to do their stuff without Park University, which encouraged me to pursue this project by allowing me to adjust my teaching schedule.

I’m always thrilled at the opportunity for an immersion experience in a different land. This is especially true for Ethiopia, which has one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating cultures. I know I’ll return in July a richer person.

While I hope to be intellectually and spiritually richer, I do not wish to be any fatter, which could be an issue since Ethiopian food is so delicious. One possible saving grace: I’ll be forced to eat my own dodgy cooking.

Whether it’s my stomach or my brain, you can keep up with my (mis)adventures in Ethiopia on my blog (http://stevenyoungblood.blogspot.com), on Facebook (peace journalism group), and on Twitter (@PeaceJourn).

Steven Youngblood

Steven Youngblood

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