Now in its second phase, the Earth Journalism Network (EJN) Asia-Pacific project aims to advance public understanding of environmental and climate crises and to drive changes that can effectively address these challenges through strengthened environmental journalism across the region.
This year, EJN organized its annual Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop from 28 to 31 March 2023 in Kathmandu, Nepal with 28 staff members and eight newly awarded media grantees. Three long-term media partners also attended: China Dialogue’s The Third Pole, which supports media coverage of climate and ecological issues in the Himalayas, the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) which runs Ekuatorial, a geojournalism platform for environmental news in Indonesia, and Thibi in Myanmar, which specializes in data analysis, data visualization and the design of data journalism training courses for journalists. (Read about last year’s convening in Phuket, Thailand, here.)
The purpose of the TOT was to enhance the skills of the newly selected media grantees (both media outlets and civil society organizations that work to improve the quality and quantity of environmental reporting in the region) as they set out to train others more effectively through the duration of their EJN-supported projects. Keeping in mind feedback from previous TOT’s, this year’s gathering was specially designed with a hands-on, collaborative approach in mind; participants brainstormed ideas and participated in small group discussions over the intensive four-day workshop.
Throughout the workshop, the attendees had the opportunity to review and refine their project activities with support from EJN staff.
They also identified pressing environmental issues in their respective countries and proposed strategies to fill gaps in reporting on these matters. “The most pressing environmental issues in my country are disasters, floods, and landslides. Every monsoon in Nepal, communities are living at high risk of floods and landslides including places like hospitals and schools,” said Arun Karki, a grantee from the Center for Data Journalism Nepal.
The sessions covered a wide range of topics including One Health, gender equality in the media, safety of journalists, fundraising, and reporting on the environment in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). The participants engaged in discussions on gender equality, social inclusion and the concept and relevance of the One Health approach, and learned more about the intricacies of financial and narrative reporting – an important skill to prepare donor compliance reports. These sessions were conducted by EJN staff.
Participants had the opportunity to learn from guest speakers too. Dr. Arun Bhakta Shrestha from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) led a session on water insecurity in mountain ecosystems caused by climate change and inappropriate infrastructure development. He spoke about what communities can do to address water insecurity – which helped participants to gain an insight into the challenges of communities living in higher altitudes and how to report on potential solutions more effectively.
The session on the safety of journalists conducted by Nirisha Manandhar and Sushobhan Chimoriya from Safer I, a campaign devoted to crafting a safer digital space for everyone based in Nepal, shared tips and suggestions for journalists on how to maintain digital safety while reporting a story.
The highlight of the workshop was a field trip to Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Participants met with the communities living inside the park and its buffer zone to learn more about the challenges they face, their efforts to preserve the catchment area’s water quality and biodiversity, and more. After a short hike, the group enjoyed local, organic fare for lunch and then made their way to a nearby dam project – the Dhap Dam, which is still in construction – intended to augment the flow of the Bagmati river during the dry season.
The Bagmati river flows through Kathmandu and is revered by many. The man-made reservoir has the capacity to collect 850,000 m3 of rainwater and is being built to withstand seismic activity – an important feature in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake which caused widespread destruction in the region.
The workshop concluded with sessions on best practices for social media and strategies to use – and monitor the use of – AI in environmental journalism. During an open space discussion session where participants determined the agenda and were free to move between discussions, small groups explored topics such as the environmental impact of foreign investments, solutions to safeguard the mental wellbeing of environmental journalists, data journalism in environmental reporting, and more.
“I’m glad to be part of EJN because it allows us to do stories on marginalized sectors that are affected by climate change and serve as their own solutions to climate change adaptation and mitigation,” said Patricia Aquino from Puma Podcast in Philippines. With EJN’s support, Aquino’s organization will produce a podcast series that explores the impact of natural disasters on livestock and explores how animals can be better included in disaster preparedness and evacuation plans.
Charmaine Yanam Poriambep from InsidePNG, Papua New Guinea, said she appreciated the training and exposure she’s received from EJN. Inside PNG will produce an investigative documentary on mining waste disposal in the island region.
“Over four days in Kathmandu, we had the opportunity to discuss the most challenging environmental issues with partners and staff who are at the frontlines of environmental degradation and climate change,” said Amy Sim, project lead and senior program manager for Internews Asia. “It was a wonderful experience seeing peers from different parts of Asia-Pacific actively sharing their knowledge and skills, and exploring collaboration for media projects that would amplify the voices of those most vulnerable to environmental degradation and potentially drive positive outcomes.”
Banner image: Participants meeting with members of communities living inside Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park and its buffer zone during a field trip / Credit: Michael Salzwedel.