The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in collaboration with the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) held a two - day Conference on the Media and Climate Change in Nairobi, Kenya from 9-10 July, 2014.
The Conference brought together 25 journalists union leaders across the continent. Representatives from the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources of Kenya, UNESCO, Ford Foundation and the Institute of Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG) also addressed the Conference aimed at drawing strategies on how the African media can report more effectively on climate change.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Environment Secretary, Dr. Alice Kaudia, speaking on behalf of the Cabinet Secretarysaid that one of the greatest threats confronting human existence today is climate change. This Conference, she said, should lead to the building of the capacities of journalists on the concept of climate change, thus enabling them to report more effectively on climate change. “African journalists” she asserted, “ should focus and intensify their reporting on Climate change, shaping public opinion, setting agendas and leading discussions that are aimed at creating awareness, enhancing public understanding of climate change and changing attitudes in the general citizenry to help mitigate the effects of climate change”.
Dr. Alice Kaudia emphasized that Kenya is at the forefront in the fight against climate change and had initiated a number of strategies at the Ministerial level and recognized the role of the media in helping to disseminate information to the public and guide policy dialogue in this area. She assured the participants at the conference of the Kenya’s government’s commitment to support the work of journalists in this regard and to lobby other African countries, through various fora and agencies to work in facilitating access to information.
In a similar vein, the UNESCO Regional Advisor for Communication and Information at the Dakar Office in Senegal, Dr. Jean Pierre Ilboudo, said that the engagement of the media is vital for the fight against climate change and hence the need to train journalists to be able to report on the subject more effectively. “One aspect of our mandate is to train journalists especially in the field of science, technology and innovation”. In this regard, UNESCO had already published two training manuals on climate change. At the local level, UNESCO has also trained journalists working with community radio stations on issues concerning climate change.
FAJ President, Mohammed Garba in his speech said that human activity is the main cause of climate change and there is no doubt that human influence on the climate had caused more than half of the observed increase in the effects of climate change. “It is therefore pertinent for the media to tackle such challenges in order to assist in redressing these issues”. The role of the media is therefore critical in the fight against climate change. “It does not only raise public awareness about climate change, the causes, consequences and possible remedies, but it also investigates and reports incidences of its devastations”.
The Director of the IFJ Africa Office, Gabriel Baglo echoed similar sentiments in his address of welcome by noting that stating that climate change poses serious risk to sustainable growth and development. He added that Africa is vulnerable to climate change and in many countries and regions, agricultural production, food security and water supply would be severely compromised by the consequences of climate change. It is therefore important to highlight the crusading and distinctive role of journalists in informing and creating awareness as well as influencing public policies and behavioral change.
At the end of the two – day conference, the participants at the conference issued a Resolution calling on African governments and the Africa Union, to involve the media and journalists’ organisations in developing policies on climate change and urge Government bodies and private institutions to provide access to information related to climate change. The Resolution further called on the African Union, the UNECA and African Governments to make climate change a priority, by training media professionals to inform and disseminate information on policies and decisions on climate change and to encourage the development and adoption of national, regional and continental policies on climate change.
The Resolution further called on the Federation of African Journalists, journalists trade unions and media houses to establish policies and desks on climate change while mainstreaming climate change in information dissemination and introducing climate change as a course in all media training institutions and in-house training for practicing journalists, including modules on climate change at the masters degree level.