Mediterranean Media Initiative: Building Expert Marine Reporting Capacity of Journalists in the Med

hervia nudibranch

Mediterranean Media Initiative: Building Expert Marine Reporting Capacity of Journalists in the Med

Europe Middle East and North Africa

Initiative méditerranéenne des médias: Renforcer les capacités des journalistes de la région méditerranéenne en matière d'expertise maritime
 

Iniciativa Mediterránea de Medios de Comunicación: Desarrollo de capacidad reporteril sobre temas marinos para periodistas en el Mediterráneo

In response to the deepening Mediterranean Sea conservation crisis,  Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) launched a two-year media capacity building project titled: Mediterranean Media Initiative in March 2022,  with the aim of enabling journalists and media organizations from the region to expertly report on marine issues.

Media reports and investigations contribute to holding governments accountable for their decisions and policies, many of which are taken behind closed doors or in high-level negotiations. By increasing the frequency and quality of reporting on fisheries and other marine management issues in the media, EJN aims to improve public understanding of current problems and solutions and ensure that the voices of all stakeholders are heard, and not just the regular talking heads from industry and international NGOs.

Over the course of two-years, the media program dedicated to the Mediterranean seeks to:

  • Increase the quantity, quality and consistency of media coverage and special investigations about the marine management of the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Build the capacity of journalists, media outlets and other communicators to report on marine and coastal management in and around the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Create communities and/or networks of journalists in each sub-region who are dedicated to improving coverage of Mediterranean issues.

Fishing in the Mediterranean Sea has historically been, and is still today, an important and culturally significant activity — both as part of the cultural fabric of the region and the economic well-being of the unique set of nations which encircle it. The rich history of the Mediterranean region has not only left a crucial cultural legacy, but also a showcase of natural marine history, as well as evidence of the degree to which fishing and fish processing has been vital to the marine economy. 

Today, with the total population of the Mediterranean countries estimated at around 512 million, and set to grow by another 180 million by 2050, the once abundant sea is now at the center of an overfishing crisis that has gained negative international attention. Increased fishing capacity has ultimately placed these waters under unsustainable pressure, leading to recent estimates that over 87% of assessed Mediterranean fish stocks are overfished.

Emblematic Mediterranean species such as the blackspot seabreams, European hake, blue and red shrimp, deep-water rose shrimp, sardines, anchovies, sardinellas and common dolphinfish are being unsustainably targeted by fleets. Exacerbating this is the incidental catch of vulnerable species including sharks, seabirds and sea turtles as well as the degradation of essential fishing habitats and vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as cold water corals.

The decline of the overall health of the Med Sea is disrupting the robustness of ecosystems, with an increasing number of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems being put forward for regional protection to try to safeguard some of the legacy of the Med for future generations to enjoy.

Overall, despite the best efforts from stakeholders — from the  local landing port inspector to the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean — an overfishing and biodiversity crisis persists. Solutions appear to be complex and inter-dependent, and will require local, national, sub-regional and regional stakeholders agreeing to the same pathway at the same decision-making pace. In the meantime, how much do coastal communities understand what is happening? Despite the startling statistics on overfishing in the region, not enough information is being made available or easily accessible, resulting in a public that is largely unaware of the scale of the unfolding crisis.

"If actors of change are confined solely to policymakers and a few international NGOs, the change needed is likely to take considerably longer, which is why EJN, with the support of the Adessium Foundation, has launched a two-year project focused on building journalistic capacity and media coverage that includes the voices of local scientists and other expert stakeholders from Mediterranean countries beyond the EU borders, and more precisely from North Africa," said Mediterranean Media Initiative Director, Mona Samari.

Tackling environmental issues collectively and with a broader scope of stakeholder expertise that includes journalists and media workers is a demonstrably effective pathway to bring more visibility to marine issues through the unique story-telling skills inherent to journalism.

The other socio-environmental issues EJN will be addressing through this Mediterranean capacity-building program include:

  • Exposing the scale of unsustainable marine management of the Mediterranean Sea and the transboundary nature of oceanic crime, with a special focus on issues such as overfishing, destructive fishing practices, by-catch of large pelagic vulnerable species, unregulated trafficking of marine species, pollution and vulnerable ecosystems. In the context of environmental crime, whereas illegal logging and mining has led to a number of media investigations exposing fraud and corruption, in fisheries reporting, this type of in-depth exposure in the Mediterranean has so far been lacking in the face of the problem. The impact of these practices on coastal communities includes the loss of sustainable livelihoods, the decline of valuable ecosystems, abuse of workers’ rights, and the loss of natural and cultural heritage.
  • Addressing the lack of media interest and capacity in expertly reporting on issues related to the Mediterranean Sea through the provision of journalism opportunities, subgrants, partnerships with established and emerging media houses, coupled with access to thematic and editorial experts in French, Spanish, Arabic and English. This project aims to build the capacity of journalists in the Western and Central Med to produce independent reports on the current state of the Mediterranean Sea, cover solution-based approaches proposed through technology and citizen-led innovations and investigate criminality and corruption which is either transboundary in nature or within national waters.
  • Contributing to increased transparency of ocean management through improved information sharing in the public domain. Through our targeted capacity building program, we aim to turn the tide by putting more crucial and actionable information in the public domain, empowering communities and policymakers to take more action in support of sustainability and providing a platform from which grassroots and established not-for-profit movements can be called upon to provide expert testimonials from the field.

With the launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in 2021, this is a critically timed opportunity for Mediterranean journalists to report, collaborate and investigate.  

If you are a journalist working in the Med, please join the EJN Ocean Journalists Network mailing list and follow EJN on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Journalists from the region will be invited to submit applications for media workshops, story grants, special reports, investigative journalism opportunities and more. Please check the EJN website for further updates on this project. 


Banner image: A close-up of Hervia nudibranchs in coral reefs in the Mediterranean Sea / Credit: Jean-Marc Kuffer via Flickr.

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