A network of journalists in northern Nigeria is fostering peace and reconciliation through their work

Ibrahima Yakubu, the Team Leader of NPJ, makes a point during a meeting. Photo by Mohammed Ibrahim, used with permission.

This story was written by Mohammed Ibrahim and originally published by Peace News Network. An edited version is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Nigeria, a country of over 200 million people with more than 250  ethnic groups, has consistently made headlines because of various crises. In northern Nigeria,  religious or ethnic conflicts have resulted in the loss of countless lives and property. Some blame the media for fueling societal divisions through biased and sectarian reporting.

In response to this, the Network of Peace Journalists (NPJ), in collaboration with non-governmental organizations including the Interfaith Mediation Center, Mercy Corps, and Kaduna State Peace Commission, have undergone training in peace journalism. They aim to use their training to foster peace and reconciliation rather than hate and division within society.

In an interview with Peace News, Ibrahima Yakubu, the team leader of the NJP in Northern Nigeria, emphasized the impact of peace-building training in mitigating conflicts and combating the spread of “fake news” on social media, while aiming to promote positive narratives. He said, “We have been experiencing conflict reportage that destabilizes communities. It’s time to change the narrative by encouraging journalists to promote peace journalism.”

According to Yakubu, journalists in Nigeria have directly experienced the impact of instability. As such, their role is to ensure that they promote peace through their newspapers, broadcast radio stations, and online news platforms. Yakubu also advocates for journalists to write personal blogs, which he believes can strengthen the push towards assisting every citizen in promoting the ideas of peace journalism.

Andrew Mshelia, a Kaduna-based broadcast journalist and member of NPJ, highlighted the pivotal role of journalists in promoting peace in regions prone to religious and political tensions like Kaduna. “People believe us journalists, and they take our words seriously. It’s not just about holding the government accountable but also holding ourselves accountable,” he explained.

Mshelia highlights the importance of media agenda-setting, in which the media can highlight not just what to think, but also what to think about. He emphasized the need to focus on stories that unite rather than divide, recognizing that peace is essential for societal stability and progress.

Mayen Etim, the group's deputy team leader, echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing that peace is paramount for societal advancement. She stressed the need for journalists to promote peace, as their words can either foster harmony or ignite conflict.

“So for us journalists, it is imperative that we seek peace. If we set any ethnic group against the other and the country is set ablaze, we will be running helter-skelter … we should remember to write to live because if you write and you set the nation ablaze, you will also be affected,” she said.

She added that the local people are tired of hearing bad news in the media, which is why they are working hard to train more journalists to embrace peace journalism, preach peace, speak peace, talk peace, and work for peace.

Samson Auta, a development practitioner and Early Warning Early Response Specialist (EWER) said the media is key to engaging the community and the government on how to address issues that can lead to crisis or conflict in society. The EWER system is a way to identify threats at an early stage in communities and initiate a rapid response to mitigate conflicts.

Auta believes that journalists should be supporters of peace because they are also members of the community, and would themselves benefit from building peace in every community. “We noted that in the past most violence that happened, we discovered that some journalists contributed to it directly or indirectly due to their reportage.” Referring to the activities of the NPJ team, he said,  “We could see their work so far, they have become part of the peace professionals by avoiding headlines that will escalate violence or tensions.”

The group is actively seeking partnerships with organizations, aiming to expand peace journalism training beyond Kaduna to other parts of Nigeria. As journalists, they understand the power of their pens and the responsibility that comes with it. By promoting peace, they aim to not only shape the present but also pave the way for a brighter and more unified future for Nigeria.

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