Citizens In Action Southern Africa in partnership with Media Centre Masvingo held a journalist training on environment and climate change reporting in Masvingo urban at Charles Austin Theatre on the 6th of June 2022 as part of commemorating the World Environment day that was celebrated the previous day under the theme “only one earth”. The organizations through this training aimed to sensitize Media practitioners, on the need to prioritize Environment and Climate Change reporting and also to acquaint them with basic skills and knowledge on accurate and balanced reporting of environmental issues and Climate change. The training also sought to encourage Media practitioners to specialize in Environment reporting as a way to inform and educate communities on the impact of Climate Change on livelihoods. The meeting took form of a training with key guiding trainers from a media house, Enviropress, Flora and Fauna Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Union of Journalists. The training was attended by twenty-five media practitioners. 13 of the trainees were females and 12 were males. The media practitioners were from various media houses in Masvingo which included Hevoi fm, GZU Campus radio, Tellzim news, Enviropress, Mirror Masvingo, Masvingo Star, Mid-week Watch only to mention but a few. Citizens In Action Southern Africa through this meeting managed to foster relationships with Media Centre Masvingo, Enviropress and Flora and Fauna and also with media houses in Masvingo.
Background and Context
The pollution of the Shakashe River by the municipality of Masvingo recently sees aquatic life dying which attracted Citizens In Action Southern Africa (CIASA) and Masvingo Media Center’s attention as it presented the urgent need to capacitate media practitioners on environment and climate change reporting. In addition, the illegal mining at Target Kopje hills which has left open gullies and water reservoirs at risk from collapsing due to blasting that is currently underway attracted the organization’s attention also as it poses a threat to the environment that people live in. It should be noted that climate-induced disasters that have been affecting Masvingo Province also contributed to the need for such an intervention. More significantly, there has been growing global trend of Climate denials and sponsored proliferation of fake news and misinformation that downplays the impact of climate change by certain quotas of society especially those whose commercial interests are driven by industries that contribute to Climate Change which is a clear testimony that the implementation of the project was key and necessary. At national level, media houses in Zimbabwe prioritize politics and business reporting which they believe sell the paper or the headlines than environment and climate change reporting. It is surprising to see a main news headline or lead story about environment and climate change. This therefore negatively affected this project as in some case the skills that journalists acquired during the training will be of no impact to a media house. However, it is a fact to note that the situation presents an opportunity to implement the project as it presents an eye opening to media practitioners in particular and media houses in general on the need to prioritize environment and climate change reporting. Equally important to note is the fact that Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are operating at a time when the parliament of Zimbabwe is still debating the Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) bill which is likely to further shrink the civic space if passed into law. This situation therefore puts CSOs at risk of conducting activities especially with journalists since they can be targeted and risk to be deregistered.
The first presentation was from the Director of Enviropress and GZU Media lecturer, Moses Ziyambi on the overview of the media and climate change reporting landscape. He highlighted the need for media houses to prioritize environment and climate change reporting. He also added that journalists must poses investigative skills and to be well informed when it comes to reporting environmental and climate change issues. Moses Ziyambi also unpacked on the challenges that media houses in general and media practitioners are facing in covering environment and climate change reporting which therefore results to the marginalization of the beat. The challenges which he paid attention to include lack of resources and skills in media houses and journalists respectively.
The second presentation was on Legal Perspectives in Environment and Climate Change reporting from the Director of Flora and Fauna, Advocate Fidelis Nyamukondiwa. In his presentation, Advocate Nyamukondiwa shared a number of environmental laws that journalists need to be aware of when it comes to reporting environment and climate change issues. He also highlighted that according to the Environmental Management Act issues which affect the environment should be done after Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate which can be obtained from EMA. Advocate Nyamukondiwa alleged that some EIA certificates are being issued corruptly and on some instances communities are not being consulted before the certificates are issued hence it is the duty of climate change reporters to investigate and report this.
The Vice President for Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, Godfrey Mtimba capacitated media practitioners on ethics that relates to environment and climate change reporting that journalists need to be aware of when reporting and covering such a beat. During his presentation, Godfrey Mtimba reiterated on the importance of being objective, accurate and truthful when one is covering environment and climate change. He also highlighted that journalists must be balanced as they cover this beat. Journalists shared their experiences especially when it comes to reporting environment and climate change issues. Among various challenges they encounter as they cover this beat, journalists agreed that media house’s failure to prioritize the environmental beat caused most of the environmental stories to be spiked since they do not sell the paper.
Journalists especially women also reiterated that the beat requires a number of skills most of them do not poses like being investigative which therefore hindered them from covering and reporting such issues.
Action Points and Recommendations
CIASA was recommended to facilitate more media trainings and skills development meetings to enhance journalists reporting skills and coverage of the environment and climate change beat.
Journalists also recommended CIASA to commission environment and climate change stories to encourage journalists to cover the beat which is marginalized in most media houses.
A stakeholder engagement meeting to source for funding of environment and climate change reporting was recommended also after the realization that journalists lack resources to thoroughly investigate environment and climate change issues.
CIASA was recommended to spearhead annual award winning events foe environment and climate change reporting.
To Media Practitioners
Media houses were recommended to prioritize environment and climate change and give much importance as given to other beats like politics and business.
Media practitioners were also recommended not to wait for scenarios to happen so that they cover environmental issues but to focus on making media consumers aware of environmental and climate change issues that are taking place.
Journalists were recommended to make positive impact in communities and the country at large through environment and climate change reporting.
Source: Citizens In Action Southern Africa (CIASA)