EJN Hosts Virtual Networking Workshop for Asia-Pacific Indigenous Journalists

Group of people standing in a mangrove
EJN Hosts Virtual Networking Workshop for Asia-Pacific Indigenous Journalists

On December 18th, 2023, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network hosted a 2.5-hour virtual networking workshop for Indigenous journalists from the Asia-Pacific region. 

The workshop aimed to strengthen peer-to-peer networking of Asia-Pacific Indigenous journalists and facilitate knowledge-building and information exchange. Former grantees and other Indigenous journalists from the region were invited to attend.

Indigenous journalists play a key role in providing accurate information on the climate and environmental crisis, yet data shows a persistent lack of Indigenous representation in newsrooms and media stories. In the Asia-Pacific region, which is home to an estimated 70% of the world’s Indigenous populations, the UN reports that outlets “have so far failed to fully support the inclusive participation of Indigenous Peoples.” A recent report also suggests that many Indigenous journalists around the world face immense pressures in their job, from reporting on stories that are emotionally taxing to advocating for the value of Indigenous stories in non-Indigenous newsrooms to experiencing racial abuse from readers online.

The workshop featured presentations from Folker Hanusch, professor of journalism at the University of Vienna and editor-in-chief of the journal Journalism Studies, and Nina Sangma, journalist and lead of the communications program at Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, who spoke about the strengths and challenges of Indigenous journalism.

Hanusch presented on his collaborations with Māori journalists in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and the role of Indigenous journalism in the current media landscape. His presentation focused on how “embeddedness”—or being part of a community with shared history, language and cultural values—can be seen as a “strategic advantage” in Indigenous journalism and other forms of reporting around the world.

"Detachment may not actually be feasible or even desirable,” said Hanusch. “Being embedded presents a lot of strategic opportunities to do better journalism.”

Nina Sangma presented on the work of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, a regional organization with presence in 14 Asian countries that works to defend and advance Indigenous Peoples’ rights. She discussed the environmental and existential threats faced by Indigenous communities in the region, from dispossession of land rights and territories to threats to Indigenous languages and culture. She also shared local solutions and journalism resources such as the Indigenous Data and Knowledge Sovereignty, a framework for Indigenous communities to collect data on the ground to address gaps in information, and Centers for Excellence in Village Governance, which are communities identified and promoted by AIPP as doing exceptional work for advancing Indigenous self-determination.

In a following Q&A session, Sangma also spoke about shifting away from more extractive media narratives to decolonized forms.

“A lot of ... writing needs to be decolonized, written from the perspective of the lived realities of Indigenous people, of speaking truth to power,” Sangma explained.

A picture of a group of individuals holding a video conference

Stella Paul, media trainer and EJN project officer for environment and health, and Amira Abujbara, EJN’s editorial associate, also shared their experiences and insights as Indigenous journalists and editors in a “fireside chat” session. The workshop concluded with a group discussion, where participants spoke about challenges with their work and shared reflections on the workshop.

EJN’s Asia-Pacific project, which launched in late 2017, supports journalists from the region to boost the quantity and quality of environmental and climate journalism. This includes reporting on how Indigenous Peoples are impacted by deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change, and how Indigenous communities are the best guardians of natural ecosystems and are core to addressing the environmental and climate crisis. 

Last year, EJN produced an online course for journalists to learn more about Indigenous perspectives and organized a story grant program specifically for Indigenous journalists and those who identify as belonging to an ethnic minority to report on Indigenous environmental issues. 

“Indigenous Peoples have unique knowledge and insights about how to protect the environment while benefiting from natural resources, yet we rarely see or hear them in the media. By supporting journalists who are themselves Indigenous people to network and share experiences, we are hoping to start to change that,” said Amy Sim, senior program manager for Internews’ Asia-Pacific environmental programs. 

A participant who responded to a feedback survey shared: “The experience-sharing of the speakers and tips for developing stories was interesting as well as useful.”

This year, EJN will continue to support Indigenous journalists with capacity-building opportunities and platforms for virtual learning and exchange. Look out for updates from our new Indigenous story grant and training program, for selected Indigenous journalists around the world. 

Banner Image: Journalists visit a mangrove conservation project in Baros village, Indonesia. This image is for representation only and does not depict EJN journalists or staff / Credit: Ulet Ifansasti for CIFOR via Flickr.

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