The island countries of the Pacific are on the frontlines of climate change, their natural resources threatened by over-exploitation. Across the region, lives and livelihoods are at disproportionate risk from natural disasters, rising sea levels, pollution and more, which makes accurate reporting about these topics all the more important so people have the information they need to act, adapt and mitigate these mounting risks.
Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) has long recognized this fact. Through our Asia-Pacific project, we provide grants and mentoring to individual journalists and media outlets in the region, organize training opportunities, and strengthen journalism networks that in turn bolster the media environment.
As part of this commitment, we were pleased to see the launch in June of the inaugural Pasifika Environews Awards, a collaborative effort between the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), and EJN.
We were even more excited to see some EJN-supported stories among those recognized: Sera Sefeti’s piece on the plight of coastal communities devastated by a recent volcanic eruption in Tonga was named the runner-up for Best Environment Story; Ben Bilua’s reporting on how sea level rise is affecting a village in the Solomon Islands was named the runner-up for Best Ocean Story, and Irwin Angiki’s article about the consequences of climate change for Solomon Islands’ Bellona was named the runner-up for Best Climate Change Story. Not only that, but former EJN grantee Charles Piringi also featured on the winners list:
- SPREP Best Environment Story: Charles Piringi, Solomon Islands
Runner Up: Sera Sefeti, Fiji Islands
- OPOC Best Ocean Story: Vijay Narayan, Fiji Islands
Runner Up: Ben Bilua, Solomon Islands
- Pasifika Environews Best Climate Change Story: Moffat Mamu Ghala, Solomon Islands
Runner Up: Irwin Angiki, Solomon Islands
At the awards ceremony in Suva, Fiji, on June 8—World Oceans Day—Fiji President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere advised journalists to “continue what you do best and be the watchdog of society. Keep writing about ocean and Pacific stories and advocate sustainable action and sustainable management of our resources.”
“We are coming together to continuously learn and hone our skills”
Over the last couple of months, EJN also brought reporters in the region together to share their perspectives on environmental journalism from various angles.
On the same day as the awards ceremony, EJN also hosted a roundtable discussion with editors and news managers on how to strengthen local environmental reporting in the Pacific. Vijay Narayan, head of news at Communication Fiji Limited (FM 96 and Fiji Village) whose series investigating a proposed development project won the Pasifika Environews award for Best Ocean Story, was one of the participants.
“Every day, we’re experiencing the effects of climate change in our communities. As journalists, we need to highlight in our reporting the solutions as well as focus on the resilience of people who are confronting those issues,” he said. “We need to train more young journalists to do in-depth environmental reports.”
In collaboration with Fijian Media Association’s Women in Media-Fiji, EJN also hosted a gathering of women journalists. Nearly 20 women journalists shared their experiences covering climate migration and climate justice in the region, including the safety risks and language barriers they face when interviewing people in rural communities.
“Although it is tough, there is a growing support for women to report more on the experiences of communities in environment and climate issues. We ourselves are confronted by many issues like harassment, intimidation from government officials, safe spaces for women journalists to talk freely, but we are coming together to continuously learn and hone our skills,” said Rosi Deviverata, managing editor of Fiji Sun.
A few weeks later on June 27, women journalists in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, came together for an EJN-organized media workshop about women environmental journalists. Participants were encouraged to cover the many ways that environmental stories intersect with other issues.
“We have long been discussing these issues. But there is an increasing awareness among journalists, especially women, that climate change issues need to tie in health, migration, wildlife, oceans and well-being of women and the youth,” said Papua New Guinea Media Council Secretary Belinda Kora.
Kora said they are continuously building the capacity of women journalists to report more effectively on environmental issues and address challenges they face in the media industry, especially in the provinces.
And a day later on June 28, EJN organized another workshop in Port Moresby, this time for 17 young journalists. Papua New Guinea Media Council President Neville Choi said there is a need to recognize the unique role of young journalists in changing the narrative around climate change by localizing stories that matter, especially those who are part of Indigenous communities.
“Young journalists must understand how issues at a local level are connected to global issues when it comes to environment or climate change. It is time to highlight the importance of solutions-based journalism to better inform the public and engage policymakers,” Choi said.
"In a region as vast as the Pacific with its environmental problems, more and more journalists are now integrating climate change, biodiversity, pollution and health in their reporting,” said Imelda Abaño, EJN senior coordinator for Philippines and Pacific region. “EJN has a robust program in the Pacific and we continuously support all strands of media as we see strong interest in environmental issues.”
Banner image: Young journalists in Papua New Guinea working on story ideas about climate change and plastic pollution / Credit: Imelda Abaño.