The goal of this study was to analyze the extent to which the visual coverage of the final stages (April/May 2009) of the long-lasting Sri Lankan Civil War relied on war and peace frames. Based on the revolutionary conceptual work of Norwegian scholar Johan Galtung, who viewed war and peace journalism as two competing frames in covering conflicts and wars, we examined news photographs available from Associated Press (AP), Reuters, and Getty/Agence France-Press (AFP). To date, this topic has been discussed from mostly normative viewpoints, and only little research combined the peace journalism concept with visual framing and/or the role of newswires as gatekeeper of information. We tested this concept empirically by using content analysis of editorial news photographs of the conflict in the three leading Western newswires. By and large, our results suggest that overall visual coverage of the conflict waxed and waned over time, but was primarily driven by visuals originated in the Sinhalese-dominated regions of Sri Lanka. Further, newswires are serving very different purposes and news markets: the AP-and to a lesser extent also Getty/AFP-with their focus on external events (therefore qualifying for peace journalism) and Reuters with a stronger focus on the conflict itself (thus qualifying for war journalism). Overall, the stock photo agency Getty/AFP was found to be the newswire that is most likely to provide media outlets with photographs highlighting peace frames, with the most balanced coverage between the two conflict parties and a particular emphasis on peace demonstrations worldwide, negotiations and summit meetings.
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