The lower Mekong River Basin is facing a multitude of challenges, from climate change to rapid development to the construction of hydropower dams that have changed the river’s flow over the past decade.
These challenges not only affect the river’s ecosystem and surrounding environment, they also threaten the water security of the nearly 250 million population living along the Mekong in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
To report effectively on the threats and potential solutions facing the Mekong River and the communities it supports, journalists are looking at data to drive investigations and tell stories that resonate with their audiences. That’s why the Earth Journalism Network launched the Mekong Data Journalism Fellowship through a partnership with the East-West Center and the Stimson Center.
The eight-month program will work with roughly 30 journalists from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to provide them with the skills they need to find relevant and credible data, interpret it and turn it into powerful news stories.
Through the course of the program, Fellows will participate in an intensive 80-hour data journalism training and receive one-on-one mentorship support to produce data-driven stories for their media outlets. They’ll also join a series of virtual seminars with regional and global experts in river management and related themes and will be provided with support to create graphics and data visualizations for their stories.
Our partners at the Stimson Center will introduce the Fellows to two open data portals they’ve created -- the Mekong Infrastructure Tracker and Mekong Dams Monitor, both of which monitor large-scale development and hydropower plants in the Mekong River Basin – so that Fellows can use datasets from these portals for their stories.
Eva Constantaras, a data journalism advisor for Internews, Fulbright Scholar and former Google Journalism Fellow, will lead the data journalism training. She will be assisted by Thibi and Open Development Cambodia, two organizations with deep experience in data analysis and visualization based in Myanmar and Cambodia, respectively.
In recent years, EJN has worked with various partners to enhance data journalism capacity for reporters in many regions, including the Amazon, Indonesia, the Himalayas, southern Africa, the Nile Basin and Europe.
The Mekong Data Journalism Fellowship is part of this effort to support journalists in addressing environmental challenges and offering solutions for the sustainability of the lower Mekong River Basin.
Banner image: A boat travels down the Mekong River past an infrastructure development project in Laos / Credit: Simon Berger on Unsplash