By Wendy Mangale
To mark the World Environmental day, the Kenya Editors’ Guild in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) held a virtual webinar on Wednesday June 3 to discuss the correlation between the media and biodiversity. The forum gave editors and journalists an opportunity to interact with biodiversity experts and ask questions while interrogating issues critical to environmental journalism.
The moderator, Prof. George Nyabuga of the University of Nairobi, School of Journalism, and also a Council member of KEG, got the conversation going with well pointed questions : Why should we care about biodiversity? What role does the media play in the protection of the environment? How do we ensure the media’s partnership with UNEP is strengthened?
The chief executive officer Rosalia Omungo, spoke of the Guild’s initiative to revive the Eastern Africa Editors Forum as an attempt to create a platform across regions to address shared concerns. Biodiversity, she said, was one such concern, on account of the shared resources in the form of lakes, rivers and mountains, among others. She called for support and partnership with UNEP to help journalists’ get a better handle on stories on biodiversity.
UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director, Dr. Joyce Msuya was of a similar view, that editors and her organisation do indeed find common ground on environmental issues as these are shared across borders. Furthermore, UNEP would value partnership with editors through their creative story telling on biodiversity that would foster citizen engagement in the protection of the environment. “Biodiversity, she said, is at the core of human well-being; we have a direct connection and we must take care of nature.”
Dorothy Kweyu, a consulting editor at the Nation Media Group, called for the need to tap into indigenous knowledge for better coverage of the environment, adding that journalists must not allow politics to crowd out environmental issues. Francis Openda of the Radio Africa Group pointed out the need to strengthen the relationship between the media and the environment. “What happens in another village or country is likely to have ramifications on the rest of us,” he said . As such, “ journalists must create environmental awareness,” through monthly awareness and at forums such as Townhall meetings.
NMG Weekend Managing Editor Bernard Mwinzi drew attention to the fact that environmental stories are not an attractive proposition for many journalists, hence newsrooms should focus on prioritizing this. There was also a need to humanize environmental reporting to resonate with locals. “We need to show, not tell, ”he suggested.
A lingering question was how to get the media interested in such stories , as well as make them more appealing to the ordinary mwananchi. Responses ranged from collaboration between scientists and journalists for easier access to scientific research data, capacity building, Incorporating fun activities in exercises such as tree planting so as to engage the youth, to reviewing environmental journalism courses in journalism schools.