The fate of climate action reporting: is the media responsible?

Participants during the meeting at Best West Plus Hotel, Addis Ababa. FILE PHOTO

As the world is bombarded with different discussions about Climate Change emergency, journalists, scientists, civil society across Africa and France have raised great concerns of appeal that show that there is more to be done in order to get a free world from global warming.

This was raised during the ongoing 3-days’ seminar on Journalism and Climate Emergency organized by the CFI Dunia project in Addis Ababa- capital of Ethiopia.

The conference that has gathered professionals of the media field, experts, scientists, civil society representatives from France and Africa is aimed at reflecting collectively on the attention given to climate change in the media, the stakes and challenges of covering climate issues.

While giving the welcome remarks on Monday 16th December, 2019, Ms Anne-Sophie Ricco, the CFI project manager for Africa said that since climate emergency is currently one of the most important global issues, Africa is the continent that is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

She added that the objective of the seminar is to enable the media and the civil society to come to a common understanding on issues concerning climate change news coverage, the responsibility of the media in public engagement and the impact of an overly negative narrative on public perception.

Mr. Amare Aregawi, the Chairman for Ethiopian Media Council while giving a foreword on the first day of the seminar said that the media has got a key role to play in the response to climate change.

He added that they [media] have a responsibility to inform the general public of its causes, relay existing solutions and adaptation opportunities as well as to monitor public policies implemented at local, national and international level.


25 years of complete failure by African journalists

In a panel discussion on the question about simplicity of talking about climate change, these questions were raised:

How do African media organizations currently cover climate change?  Is current coverage reflective of the urgency of the issues? To what extent is climate change a global, cross-cutting but also complex issue? What shortcomings and obstacles do media organizations face in terms of the coverage of the issue?  What can be done to improve coverage? Why is there a greater focus on consequences rather than causes?

In that discussion, Wanjohi Kabukuru, a veteran journalist from Kenya disclosed that African journalists have had 25 years of total failure in telling stories of impact about climate change.

“The challenge we have in African journalism is that we have journalists who are very good but are competitors and those who are joy riders,” said Kabukuru.

He added that journalists are drowned in the myth of reporting stories of crisis and forget about solutions angled stories.

Kabukuru advised that journalists have a task to understand their role as story tellers and not competitors.

“Once we understand that we are not scientists or policy makers but story tellers, then we can be good story tellers,” he advised.

Denial of space for stories

In a discussion the media, climate change denial and fake news: who is responsible?

Mr. Abaas Mpindi, the CEO of Media Challenge Initiative in Uganda brought to the attention of the house that there are a lot of cases related to climate change being dropped from the news rooms.

“Personally, I had organized for the Media Expo on Climate Change in Uganda. I contacted one of the TV newsroom editors and asked for his support and he told me that climate change is not real,” said Abaas.

In relation to his story, a question comes that if that was him asking for a cooperation with the newsroom, what about journalists who are covering climate change related issues?

It is evident that there is a problem of denial of space for climate change stories by the Media.

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Noah Omuya

Noah Omuya is the founder and CEO of Aica Media and a two time winner of the Media Challenge Awards (The best feature story writer- 2018 and the best Climate Change Photography Award- 2019). He has a bachelors degree in Mass Communication from Kampala International University. He is also an alumni for; British Council Future News Worldwide Fellowship- 2020, Climate Tracker Energy Reporting Fellowship- 2020, InfoNile- Code for Africa Data Journalism Fellowship- 2020, the Media Challenge Fellowship, 2019 and British Council East Africa and Africa Writers Trust Master Class in Creative Writing- 2019. Omuya has specialized training in writing, strategic and multimedia communication, mainstream and online journalism, broadcast media and youth participatory radio, content development, and public relations. He is very much interested in sustainable development communication.

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