Journalism for Peace

When preparing my trip to Lebanon I got in contact with the enthusiastic Swiss-Italian reporter, Luca Steinmann, who is committed to finding solutions, how journalism can contribute to peace building in the case of Lebanon.

Luca Steinmann travels regularly to different refugee camps and holds trainings for the local youth in journalism in order to empower them to tell their own story and share their reality and at the same time increase their professional perspectives.

Luca Steinmann, tell us what your classes in Lebanon are about?

I hold some trainings about journalism and communication inside different Palestinian refugees camps in Lebanon. These trainings, called “The ABC of journalism, photography and film-making” are organized by the Majed Abu Sharar Media Foundation and are addressed to young Palestinians between 18 and 29 years old resident in the camps or gatherings in Lebanon.

The main goal is to empower these people in the media fields in order to give them the ways and the possibilities to spread out their voice to the western audience. This is an operation that aims to generate a better comprehension between the different populations. Not only between the western people and the Palestinians, but also between the Palestinians and the other groups based in the Middle East.

Having young skilled and educated people is something positive for everyone that believes in the comprehension between different people and cultures.

Why did you decide to hold these trainings inside the refugees camps?

Because these trainings are addressed to the young inhabitants of the camps. The conditions inside them are not always easy. These camps are scattered throughout all the Middle East and are inhabited mainly by the descendants of those people that had to leave their houses in Palestine after the first wars between Israel and the Arab countries in 1948. The Palestinians living in the camps were promised by the United Nations to return to their homeland but this never happened. While waiting they are living inside the camps, which are in Lebanon a State inside another State.

Te camps are a State inside another State

The Lebanese army doesn’t enter them, which are under the control of the Palestinian authorities and militias. These authorities never built a proper social State in their controlled areas, almost all the welfare such as schools and hospitals is guaranteed by the United Nations. The problems are increasing now because of a growing mistrust of the Palestinians towards the traditional parties. This might generate a vacuum of power that might be occupied by radical groups.

Which are the origins of this mistrust?

The traditional Palestinian authorities accepted in 1993 the so called “two State solution” recognizing de facto the legitimacy of Israel to exist. This makes the return of the Palestinians living abroad more difficult, if not impossible, for this reason many inhabitants of the camps are losing faith in the PLO and in its leaders. Many surveys show that the trust in Abbas has never been so low as it is today.

And which are the radical groups trying to occupy the place left by the PLO? Are there also terrorist groups such as Isis and Al Qaeda among them?

There are some groups of Isis and Al Qaeda which are present in the camps and that took over the control of a part of some of them. This happened for instance in Yarmouk camp in Damascus and in Ein el Hilwee camp in Saida. It is important to underline that the great majority of the Palestinians is fighting against these terrorists, because their goals are different and because they don’t want the terrorists to mix their propaganda with the Palestinian national issue.

The terrorists already tried to exploit the Palestinian cause to make their own interests.

It happens for instance in Nahr el Bared camp in Tripoli, where a group of 300 jihadists linked to Al Qaeda and coming from all over the world took over the control of the camp and started to attack the Lebanese army. This generated a war in which Al Qaeda was defeated but that destroyed the camp and generated many victims. According to the inhabitants of Nahr el Bared, the terrorists tried to do in their camp what they are trying to do now in Syria.

Are there still clashes inside the camps between the different factions?

There are clashed inside some camps. In Lebanon most of them are happening inside Ein el Hilwee camp in Saida, where you have different groups fighting for the control of the ground. There are different factions inside this camp, some of them linked to Sunni radical groups, some others to Shia such as Hezbollah. The outcome of it are many clashes and many assassinations.

And the first victim is again those big majority of Palestinians living in the camp that is not taking part to this war.

Did you train also Palestinians from Ein el Hilwee?

Yes, I did but not inside Ein el Hilwee, which is not feasible because of the war situation. This is a very important goal of the trainings: to train young people living inside this war situation and

giving them the possibility to address to the West to explain that these clashes are not representative of the Palestinian community.

Do you really believe that this kind of trainings could keep the young Palestinians far from the war?

I strongly believe in this. The great majority of the young Palestinians are skilled but they have limited access to qualified jobs. I met many of them who are good writers and photographers but were not able to find any jobs so they were enlisted by the military groups for a payment between 100 and 200 dollars. This shows that the war is not their first choice and that it could be avoided by working on their education. This is not only in the interest of the Palestinians but also of the western people.

We need to have an educated Palestinian upper class that works hard for peace, justice and opposes the terrorists.

Without it, the only choice for some young people could be joining the militias or migrating to Europe.

Luca Steinmann, Beddawi camp in Tripoli

Luca Steinmann is a Swiss-Italian journalist working as a correspondent and reporter for different medias. As a reporter he regularly travels throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle-East, where he recently hold journalism trainings inside the Palestinian refugees camps in Lebanon.

His contributions at Huffington Post: http://m.huffpost.com/it/author/luca-steinmann

and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/genuine.james1

Both photos by Ahmad Bader