Exclusive Free Webinar

The Peacemakers: Journalism on Women Building a World Without War

June 20th, 2024

The voices of women are seldom heard in the noise of war-mongering and hate-speech, but often they play a key role in building the conditions for tolerance, reconciliation and peace-making. FJA winners in 2022 and 2023 showed how in two areas that have been centres of violence and confrontation – central Africa and the Western Balkans – it is women who are the driving force behind attempts to build a peaceful future. This webinar gives journalists tips on how to cover conflict zones and reveals the importance of including women in these challenging stories.

Moderator: Aidan White, President of the Ethical Journalism Network and Honorary Advisor to the Fetisov Journalism Awards

Read more:

"Woman as a Media Peacemaker"

by Ljiljana Zurovac, FJA Expert Council Member

Learn more about FJA series free webinars


Dr Camille Maubert

Camille Maubert is a writer and researcher at the University of Edinburgh. Since 2019, her work on the Democratic Republic of Congo focuses on issues of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict areas, positive masculinities and social change. In an ongoing long-term project, she wrote about the role of women in building long-term peace in their communities and was published in National Geographic, the Guardian and Alternatives Humanitaires. She also works with various NGOs to develop projects to prevent violence in families and empower women and girls. Learn more about the winning story “These Women Are Bringing Some Peace to War-Stricken Congo”

Hugh Kinsella Cunningham

Hugh Kinsella Cunningham is a British photographer covering critical flashpoints of health, society and conflict. A multiple grantee of the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting, his work was awarded 1st place for Documentary Projects in the Sony World Photography Awards 2023, and he is a three-time finalist in the Amnesty International Media Awards. Working in the Democratic Republic of Congo for several years, he was published by National Geographic, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Telegraph Magazine, Stern Magazine and The Guardian. He contributes work to organisations such as Save the Children and the United Nations, as well as regular dispatches on the BBC World Service. Learn more about the winning story “These Women Are Bringing Some Peace to War-Stricken Congo”

Nidžara Ahmetašević

Nidzara Ahmetasevic is a journalist from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She writes about human rights violations, migration, the media, and post-conflict societies while focusing on the Balkans. Her work was published in the region and internationally, including Kosovo2.0, where she was regional editor, BIRN, Mladina, BIlten, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Rolling Stone, Al Jazeera English online, etc. In 2022, she was short-listed for European Press Prize. Learn more about the winning story “Real-life Heroines”

Ljiljana Zurovac

FJA Expert Council member

Ljiljana Zurovac is an independent media expert. She was the Executive Director of the Press Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina for 15 years (2005-2020). Learn more

Raffaella Chiodo Karpinsky

FJA Expert Council member

Raffaella Chiodo Karpinsky is an activist for human rights, against racism and all forms of discrimination in International solidarity movement, she has been working in international cooperation with Africa, Latin America and Middle East with different Italian NGOs and public institutions. Learn more

Nadezda Azhgikhina

Journalist, Director of PEN Moscow. Former Vice-President of the European Federation of Journalists.


Aidan White

Honorary Advisor to the Fetisov Charitable Foundation and the Fetisov Journalism Awards

Founder and President of the Ethical Journalism Network

Woman as a Media Peacemaker

Ljiljana Zurovac, a speaker in our recent webinar on media and women as peacemakers, shares her presentation on how women dealt with the war-mongering media of Bosnia Herzegovina

There is a well-established half-truth that casts women in the role of the softer party. The one who calms things down. A caregiver. The mother and protector of family. This evolutionary concept is not inaccurate, but It presents a distorted picture.

If we look at conflicts in the Western Balkans, especially in terms of the role of women in the struggle for media freedom and ethical standards, women have had to be tough, assertive and willing to face challenges head on.

Resilience, vision, and willingness were needed to stand up to male-dominated forces driven by power, profit and lack of empathy.

I’ve worked as a radio journalist since 1980s, before the war in the Balkans, and after the war too. My post-war work was entirely focused on keeping the peace and planning for a harmonious future for Bosnia Herzegovina and the entire region.

Back then I ran The Conflict Resolution, a major radio show with guests from different parts of divided country and giving them a chance to talk amongst each other. The aim was to find common ground and to start building a new peaceful life for themselves and their children.

In this period I was also in charge of the first regional High School of Journalism, where we gathered students from all the Western Balkans countries involved in the years of bloody conflict in the 1990s. We taught students about professional and ethical journalism, simultaneously giving them a chance to get to know each other and even to become the future peacemakers of this wounded area.

But, the real challenge came when I started working at the Press Council in B&H, the first self-regulatory body in Eastern Europe. I was tasked with rebuilding this media institution and setting it up from a tiny office to cover the whole country.

To do that I had to become a mediator, trying to make the peace between media owners from every side in this divided country. In those days few institutions operated nationally, most of them were local and were further divided amongst themselves.

Self-regulation of media relies entirely on voluntary goodwill and a belief that the law should not be used to enforce ethical standards of reporting. It is about promoting ethical conduct, and ensuring that professional standards are accepted and applied at all levels of media work. In the chaos of post-war B&H, self-regulation was not something that could simply be instituted through idealism or through well-meaning pamphlets on the self-evident benefits of doing good.

It needed something tougher and hard-edged to get the message across. At that moment primordial female energy needed to be awaken.

You cannot be just meek when it comes to the peacemaking. The truth is that women are increasingly aware that a gentler approach doesn’t necessarily mean to be meek or soft.  Women find ways around conflict without violence and avoids the pervasive and often male culture of ego, and politically-driven personal ambition.

Although media in the Balkans were male dominated, the major NGOs dealing with media freedom and independent journalism in B&H were mostly headed by women. We, as women, were able to create a network among ourselves. We did it “our way”.

We found different ways to change policies in media which were mainly owned and managed by men. This would change later, but only ten or more years after we started our work.

There were two challenges:

1) To build a network of women from all sides who were ready to cooperate with each other;

2) To have this network recognized by hate-mongering men who ran media houses.

But why would men who make money on hateful media reporting, listen to women? This was the real challenge, and this was done through series of delicate tasks that were carried out diplomatically, but sternly. We knew this was a society still at war with words instead of bullets.

After one and a half year of negotiations with the major media owners, we succeeded. We stood our ground, we made the right compromises where needed. The big success was achieved to have these media men, sit at a round table talking to each other towards common goal.

Among the major achievements were the improvement of the Code of Ethics on gender issues, and the treatment of women in media. Additionally, we developed and formulated a recommendation for media reporting on gender issues, domestic violence and the economic independence of women.

In co-operation with independent women networks in the country a special programme was realized, holding open meetings with women in small and rural areas all around the country.

We met strong, powerful women of different professional backgrounds, who worked hard to break old-fashioned misogynic patterns, hate speech and discriminatory behavior. We encouraged them to act, to send their complaints to the Press Council and to fight for truth. To be the peacemakers at their area.

This was followed by an excellent campaign named #StopHate Speech!

The network we developed, made up of women organizations and media, became part of a national public education process showing that hate speech is not freedom of speech, but just an obstacle to peace and prosperity.

This was one small candle in the darkness. But there were many such candles which, in time, came together, shone brighter and cast their light over a larger area.

Grassroots change happens when somebody simply refuses to stop shining and avoids being extinguished by pushing back against the surrounding darkness. The point is that people, together, make change even in a world where the powerful are blood-thirsty and blind to humanity. And women do make a difference and can be a small candle, lighting a corner of the dark.

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