Home OPINIONS Africa Climate Summit: Climate reporting in East Africa

Africa Climate Summit: Climate reporting in East Africa

Global attention turned to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi Kenya on the 4th of September 2023 as environmental scientists and policy makers gathered for the Inaugural Africa Climate Summit 2023.

It was the first of a kind climate summit to ever be held in Africa and drew similarities to historical climate conventions such as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and Paris Agreement of 2015.

Channel 1

Journalists across Africa and the world at large arrived in droves in Kenya’s capital Nairobi with their equipment in tow ready to document the historical event that kicked off on the 4th of September ending on the 6th with the Nairobi Declaration.

At the media centre, they followed different discussions and forums with utmost precision, taking breaks for quick tea or lunch. Most channels in East Africa had Climate themed bulletins for three straight days, key ones in Kenya included the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services, Standard Group, Media Max, Radio Africa Group, Cape Media among others.

The Nairobi Declaration adopted on the 6th of September, saw African leaders call for action to have developed countries reduce carbon emissions, push for new financing mechanisms to save Africa from the drowning debt and restructure climate funding.

To the chagrin of  journalists who spent three days at the summit ensuring every important discussion was passed to the public, criticism from a few disgruntled media consumers came to play. Some questioned the language used, the words used and specifically the Swahili word used to describe climate change. Some questioned whether it should be “mabadiliko ya tabia nchi” or “mabadiliko ya anga”.

The discussion raising questions whether journalists in East Africa were well equipped to report on climate issues. If they are, what are the challenges?

A report released by Internews, a non-profit organization indicated that overall, 75% of the journalists in the region experienced no incidents of harassment in the last 12 months that led to the summit, however, 11% of journalists in Kenya, 30% in Uganda, 16% in Tanzania, and 30% in Ethiopia said they experienced harassment and intimidation.

Table 10: Harassment incidents in climate reporting in the past 12 months

 

 

Harassment incidents in climate reporting

 

Overall

 

Kenya

 

Uganda

 

Tanzania

 

Ethiopia

Never 75% 89% 62% 73% 64%
1-3 times 19% 11% 30% 16% 30%
4-6 times 4% 0% 5% 7% 1%
7-9 times 1% 0% 1% 2% 3%
10 times or more 1% 0% 1% 2% 1%
Total  

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

The report notes “…Climate reporting in East Africa is still in the early stages of development. There exists an active pool of young, well-educated and experienced journalists. However, many of the journalists lack knowledge of climate change which is essential for journalists aiming to effectively cover this complex and critical issue.”

Some journalists agree with the report saying the subject matter is complex besides being unexplored and underreported as observed by Internews.

This then is a call to action to governments which are key players on matters climate change controlling key departments such as meteorological departments and hence have access to climate data to ensure journalists get access to such key information so that they inform the masses from a point of knowledge.

Newsrooms also have a key role to play in ensuring journalists who cover matters climate are trained regularly to ensure they are up to date.

These will help reduce misinformation and disinformation and ensure successful climate reporting.

The writer is an Environment and Science Journalist working with Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. She was among journalists covering the African climate summit.

Sarafina Robi
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