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Journalists, media stakeholders mark press Freedom Day scrutinizing environmental reporting

By: Igiraneza Mugisha Ghislaine

KIGALI, Rwanda (May 3, 2024)

Journalists, media experts and environmental leaders in Rwanda came together on Friday April 3rd to observe World Press Freedom Day and discussed the vital role of the media in covering the climate crisis and other environmental challenges facing the planet.

 Ms Lathifah BANTEGEYE welcomes the guests at the event Photo by: Florien INGABIRE

The event, themed “Rwandan Journalism in the Face of the Global Environmental Crisis,” was held at the Onomo Hotel in Kigali and coordinated by the FoJo Institute and Rwanda Media Group. A panel explored the pressing need for robust environmental reporting from credible news outlets.

The panel (from left to right), Karin Lindblad, Solange Ayanone, Kagire Edmund, Sadiki Rubangura, and Habimana Jean Claude, address the questions raised. Photo by: Florien INGABIRE

“A well-informed public is crucial for driving change and holding leaders accountable on environmental protection,” said Kagire Edmund from the Rwanda Media Commission during the panel discussion. “Journalists must continue shedding light on these critical issues.”

Other panelists included environmental journalist Sadiki Rubangura, Karin Lindblad from the Swedish Embassy focused on climate and environment, Habimana Jean Claude an environmental journalist and the Regional communication officer of the International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Solange Ayanone representing the Rwanda Journalists Association.

Guests enjoy a break and a chance to connect with other participants Photo by Florien INGABIRE

In the breakout group sessions, participants delved into obstacles like lack of training, resources and government restrictions that can hinder effective environmental reporting. They also examined strategies for Rwandan media to produce more compelling coverage that resonates with audiences and influences policymakers.

Academia participants address the panel on the issues faced by journalists in environmental reporting Photo by: Florien INGABIRE

Participants examined the threats that the climate crisis poses to lives and livelihoods worldwide through phenomena like rising temperatures, drought, extreme weather events and biodiversity loss. They also discussed challenges facing Rwandan journalists seeking to effectively cover complex environmental topics.

“We need more training and resources for Rwandan media to deliver accurate, fact-based reporting that raises awareness and influences policymakers,” said Rubangura. “Environmental journalism is chronically underfunded across the continent.”

Press freedom advocates emphasize that independent media plays an indispensable watchdog role by investigating issues like deforestation, poaching, pollution and public health threats related to environmental degradation.

During the Q&A, one student from the East African University Rwanda asked about the role of social media and its impact on environmental reporting.

Igiraneza Ghislaine a student at the East African University Rwanda poses a question at the panel Photo by : Florien INGABIRE

Panelist Rubangura acknowledged social media has become a powerful tool but cautioned it can also spread misinformation rapidly. “Journalists must verify information and provide crucial context that motivates people to take the climate crisis seriously,” he said.

Other questions touched on securing funding for environmental beats, overcoming government censorship, localizing global climate stories and incorporating indigenous perspectives.

In closing remarks, Mr. Peacemaker Mbungiramihigo of Rwanda Media Group (RGB) emphasized that journalists should be “catalysts for change” on environmental development. He urged reporters to prioritize accurate, innovative reporting through close collaboration with environmental organizations.

“This crisis requires all of us working together towards positive change,” Mbungiramihigo stated. “Rwandan media has a crucial responsibility to lead through truth and solutions-oriented journalism.”

Mr. Peacemaker of RGB addresses the journalist and academicians in attendance in his closing remarks Photo by : Florien INGABIRE

The event aimed to equip Rwandan journalists with the skills and knowledge to produce more high-quality environmental reporting that can drive sustainable solutions.

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