Around 70 million people depend on the Mekong River—an ecosystem on the verge of irreversible collapse due to the cumulative effects of climate change, hundreds of upstream hydropower projects and the unsustainable extraction of natural resources.
To increase awareness of natural resource policy and governance, Internews' Earth Journalism Network (EJN) is engaging professional and citizen journalists and content producers in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to tell stories of environmental challenges and people’s efforts to create resilience, as part of our Our Mekong, Our Say project, funded by USAID Mekong For the Future.
The one-year project comprises several activities such as media training, story grants, a webinar series and a social media campaign.
Video storytelling fellowship
In May, EJN selected 25 participants for a video storytelling fellowship, where they learned how to produce video stories about natural resources with a strong human-interest angle.
EJN ran two sessions of training in June in collaboration with Internews’ FilmAid, which harnesses the power of film to support vulnerable communities worldwide; Mahawthada Digital Solution, a consultant delivering comprehensive film training and digital services to independent media; and RealFrame, a group of Thailand-based documentary photographers and videographers whose work focuses on human and community rights.
Participants learned about character development, storyboarding and video pre- and post-production planning. After the training, 10 fellows with the best story pitches were awarded $2,500 each to produce their videos, which will be released later this year.
“This project is an invaluable opportunity for filmmakers in the regions to hone their skills and tell important stories that directly impact their communities,” said Jack Aung, the lead trainer and founder of Mahawthada Digital Solution.
“Our trainees were highly experienced journalists from the region who sought assistance in exploring the intricacies of environmental natural resource governance and honing their storytelling abilities to evoke powerful emotions through their film productions,” he added.
Earlier this month, project staff also led a media workshop on natural resource governance, which brought another 23 journalists and civil society organizations from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam together in Chiang Mai.
Over three days, veteran journalists highlighted multi-disciplinary approaches to reporting on natural resources in the Mekong region. They shed light on governance strategies, the importance of reporting through a gender and inclusiveness lens, and shared techniques of data and collaborative journalism that would be especially useful while reporting on transboundary challenges.
“During the workshop, I not only acquired knowledge to enhance my understanding of natural resource governance but also gained valuable technical skills that would enhance my ability to write journalistic pieces,” said Lam Nguyen, a freelance journalist based in Vietnam.
“I had the privilege of engaging with experts and NGOs in the field, gaining insights into their crucial work in supporting marginalized communities. Additionally, I forged connections and established friendships with like-minded peers, fostering potential collaborations for future journalism projects,” added Nguyen. “We had the opportunity to exchange ideas for pitching cross-border stories, which I believe will serve as a powerful tool in furthering my career as a journalist. I am truly excited about the possibilities that lie ahead and confident that the workshop has equipped me to become a better journalist.”
Following the workshop, 16 of the best story pitches from participants will be awarded story grants of $1,500 each.
“The training brought in journalists from across the Mekong region to network and find the potential to do collaborative stories,” said Paritta Wangkiat, EJN’s Mekong program officer and Mekong Eye editor.
“We are looking forward to their upcoming reporting. Many of them expressed their interest to cover the natural resource issues from multiple angles—from Cambodia’s wildlife conservation efforts and Laos’ expanding renewable energy projects to the surge of Myanmar’s illegal gold mining. Some of them plan to do cross-border reporting, which will likely make their news report more impactful.”
Banner image: Ten Thai video producers and journalists joined the three-day training led by RealFrame in Chiang Dao district in Thailand’s northern Chiang Mai province / Credit: Paritta Wangkiat.