In recent decades, Indigenous Peoples’ rights have been increasingly recognized through the adoption of international instruments such as the Escazú Agreement and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
However, threats faced by Indigenous communities — and the biodiverse territories they steward — have been chronically excluded from mainstream media. The inclusion of Indigenous voices and solutions is critical to protecting the Earth’s resources and mitigating environmental and climate disaster.
As part of its Green Recovery project, EJN hosted a three-day training workshop to strengthen the capacity of journalists to report on this critical subject. From February 21-23, 10 journalists from eight different countries representing Indigenous communities gathered in Nairobi to receive training on Indigenous environmental storytelling, a first of its kind workshop for EJN.
In her keynote address, Zeynab Wandati, the Science and Technology Editor at Nation Media Group's NTV Kenya, said: “Indigenous knowledge is something that is often overlooked, particularly in regard to climate change.” She encouraged participating journalists to highlight Indigenous issues in their reporting.
The journalists received training on the importance of dispelling bias and stereotypes and discussed the risks and opportunities in environmental storytelling in sessions led by Indigenous journalist and EJN Project Officer for Environment and Health, Stella Paul. EJN Project Coordinator Jackie Lidubwi and EJN Programme Assistant Anna Self led practical sessions on finding and pitching stories and using social media. Lidubwi also ran an in-depth session on the importance of representing disability in journalism.
Guest speaker Judy Mutheu, Audience Development Manager from Conservation Africa, led editing sessions, and emphasized the importance of data journalism and fact-checking. “As journalists we have a responsibility to help society to deal with misinformation and find clean and reliable sources of news,” said Mutheu. This session proved especially popular with the attendees: “I think this has been the most insightful class I’ve ever been to. It’s so helpful learning about different data journalism sources and websites. I didn’t know how to do any of this before!” said Michelle Agoh, a journalist from Lagos Talks, Nigeria.
To take a break from the classroom, journalists and trainers headed to Karura Forest, one of the world’s largest gazetted forests within city limits. The forest is a site of important historical significance including the Mau Mau caves which sheltered Kenyan Freedom Fighters during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s. The Karura Forest also represents an important site of historical conservation activism and was protected from land grabbing by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai in 1999. Journalists went on a guided walking tour of the forest visiting areas where Indigenous trees are being planted and spoke with a park ranger who spoke about the importance of involving those who are threatening biodiversity hotspots in their protection.
On the final day, journalists spent the morning working on story pitches and presented their ideas to a panel who then provided feedback, allowing them to strengthen their reporting ideas to pitch to their outlets back home.
Project Lead Charlie Debenham commented on how this element of the workshop helps journalists reflect on and distil their learning into stories: “The story development workshop is an important component of almost every workshop we do in EJN. It gives the participants the opportunity to apply the thematic knowledge and reporting skills that they’ve been developing over the past few days into the creation of a new story. Feedback from both their peers and senior journalist trainers can be invaluable to ensure that their pitch is robust and focused.”
Journalists returned to their home countries with an enhanced understanding of how to better integrate Indigenous perspectives and intersectionality into their work.
“I plan to use the skills [I learned at the workshop] to be more sensitive to issues of people with disabilities,” said Diana Taremwa Karakire, a journalist from Ubuntu Times, Uganda.
EJN trainer Paul noted that the workshop helped broaden the scope of what is often reported as an Indigenous issue: "Indigenous environmental journalism is often looked at from a human rights lens,” she pointed out. “In the workshop, we tried to help journalists understand that there are many other environmental issues besides deforestation and land grabbing that are of importance to Indigenous communities.”
She added that it was heartening to see how engaged the journalists were throughout the workshop. “I believe the skills they developed in this workshop will not only help improve their individual reporting but contribute to Indigenous environmental journalism in the regions that they represented,” said Paul.
This workshop was supported by Svenska Postkodstiftelsen.
As part of this project, EJN has also launched an e-learning course on Indigenous Journalism. Journalists can learn more and register here.
Read more about EJN’s Green Recovery Project and all our upcoming activities here and look out for the journalists’ stories, which will be republished on the EJN site.
Banner image: The journalists and EJN staff on a field trip to the Karura Forest in Nairobi / Credit: EJN.