#Doable PSC 2019: Journalists share best practices for reporting on climate security

PESHAWAR: Climate change and media experts shared tips and techniques with 15 reporters from developing countries on how to use innovative storytelling techniques to improve their coverage of the climate and security issues in order to better sell their stories to local as well as global audiences.

These journalists were brought by Free Press Unlimited and Stanley Foundation from Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon and Caribbean countries – which are worst affected by climate change- to The Hague under media fellowship program to cover the annual 4th Planetary Security Conference which was held on February 19 and 20, 2019.

Seasoned international journalist and trainer Ricci said that journalists working in local communities across developing countries can use Google satellite in storytelling which can make the audience easily understand the context, time and place of a development related to climate change and security.

Finding a good character is key to storytelling as it humanizes a story and attracts global audience even if the story is local. “Don’t be limited to purely tell climate story but try to link it to other social and cultural aspects of our life. Climate change affects our life one way or the other,” she said, adding otherwise audience hardly read or watch a pure science story which is full of technical terms and figures.

Khalid Suleiman, an Iraqi journalist and trainer, said that journalists should tell their audience in developing countries that global warming is happening because of human activities and not due to natural reasons. Giving an example of White River in Iraq, he said it provided drinkable, fishing and swimmable water a couple of decades before. “But now the river is contaminated and is not usable for any of the above three purposes due to human actions,” he said.

Such issues need to be humanized and told in a manner that can grab the attention of wider audience, he said, and explained that one great example of writing the intro of a story with information like this, “Thousands of children poisoned and people getting clay in the tape instead of water in Iraq.” This way the people at large can be sensitized about climate and security issues.

He said the New York Times produces a story every day about water issue and global warming across the world. However, journalists in Iraq and MENA region write stories on the given topic whenever there are some problems. “We only write stories on climate change and security when something big happens such as flood and drought.”

Some of the participants said that journalists in developing countries faces problem when it comes to data gathering and access to information about climate security as little or no research has been done in this regard. They said that since the issue of climate change and security is very complex, so officials and government departments often take no responsibility and avoid to talk to reporters on the subject.

It is also not easy for climate change reporters to hold the power to account in developing countries.

“We can talk about contaminated water in Iraq but cannot talk about the government in water story as usually businessmen are politicians and politicians are businessmen and they deal in selling of drinkable water. Whenever you take a story to the newspaper’s editor for publication, he or she puts it in the trash saying the company which is sells the water is owned by a politician. If you publish, you can get killed” said Suleiman.

He said that Urbanization is also a threat to the environment as a lot of trees cutting are happening in Iraq and since politicians are involved, it’s hard for journalists to highlight the issue.

Devon Terril, Stanley Foundation program officer for media, said that journalists should not only talk about the problem of climate change but also come up with solutions in their stories on the nexus of climate and security. She said that story on climate and security should be balanced by bringing together viewpoints of various stakeholders that can help in holding the authorities to account.

While addressing the workshop, Catalina Werrell, co-founder of The Center for Climate and Security, said “Very few people understand the link between security and climate change and this is why we don’t see good stories on the subject. The good thing is that now we have tools and technology to monitor climate change and let people know where the world is heading.”

She adds that such information can be used by reporters in their stories to better educate their audience on the security threats emanating from climate change.

Tobias, a fellow at Clingendael Institute, said good research and good journalism have same framework and correlations as both are based on facts. The discussion on climate change and security should not be restricted to closed rooms in developed world but reporters from developing countries need to tell stories at local communities’ level that what does global warming mean in practical terms.

“Its good time to focus on climate security in 2019 as the moment we have political movement at global level to pick up the topic. But what is not good in journalism and climate change is that such stories are not loader and get minimum attention in media.

The Free Press Unlimited and Stanley Foundation had established a special media center for 15 foreign environmental reporters to report and interact with speakers and dignitaries on the most pressing climate change issues in the planetary security conference. Each of these journalists produced and published three stories to better educate their audience in local communities in Africa and MENA regions.


The author is news editor at Tribal News Network based at Peshawar, who participated in the media fellowship program to cover the #Doable 4th Planetary Security Conference in the Hague on February 19 and 20, 2019.