Heinrich Boell Stiftung (hbs) organized an event to acknowledge the contributions of the cohort of Journalists on environment established by hbs in 2015 titled, “Journalists on Climate Change and Resource Equity”. The main purpose of establishing this cohort of journalists is to mainstream the subject of environment including climate change and natural resource equity in media reporting. After four years of successful engagement with the journalists, hbs has over hundred knowledge based media products to showcase on the themes including watershed management, national park conservation, alternate and renewable energy, air pollution, land degradation, early warning systems and natural disaster, aforestation and conservation. These media products including newspaper articles, TV talk shows, radio programs etc. have improved reporting on environment in Pakistan both in numbers and quality if information shared.
The cohort has over hundred mainstream electronic and print media journalists, anchorpersons, editors and producers. The convener of the cohort and program Coordinator ecology shared that the initiative is guided by the resource equity memorandum of hbs titled, “Resource Politics for a Fair Future”. She further shared that resource equity in any part of the world can only be achieved if the rights of nature and humans are recognized and secured. This is possible with independent, well researched and unbiased information sharing by media. She shared how through this cohort environment reporting has increased in past 4 years. The cohort is a means to not only connect but to widen the scope of environmental journalism. There is always an economic actor or economic benefit that influences decisions which stress environment. Therefore it is important for the journalists to highlight this connection for informed and independent policy decision making.
Citing a prominent success story, she mentioned the notice taken by the Supreme Court of cement factories polluting the water at the historic Katas Raj Site. Embassy Road tree cutting was also noticed because of the work of journalists from this cohort who amplified the voices speaking against it.
The field visits were based on the themes mentioned above around the four provinces of Pakistan. These included Khanpur, Quetta, areas in Gilgit Baltistan Hunza, Chitral, National Park-namely Ayubia, Margalla and Masher, Gwadar, Haripur, Chakwal and Thar. In addition the journalists were also facilitated for COP21, 22, 23, and 24 in order to familiarize them with the global debate on climate change. After meeting communities/beneficiaries, technical staff of the project and write shop with hbs coordinator, media producers were published.
German Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr Martin Kobler attended the event as Guest of honor and applauded the initiative. He emphasized on the importance of knowledge based reporting for independent journalism in Pakistan especially when the air we breathe in Pakistan is filled with toxics. Despite the rich natural beauty and rich resources Pakistan is suffering environmental consequences. He also spoke about the plastic pollution which is increasing in the oceans around the world and encouraged the audience to adopt ecologically just consumption patterns and refuse plastic in their life. It is important to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions.
Mr Gregor Enste, former resident director of hbs also saw the positive change in Pakistan he noticed, where citizens are taking charge of improving their environment. He encouraged the journalists to turn to hbs for research support so that together the civil society and media could make this country and the globe a better place. He did however caution about the worrying trend of casting aspersions on the organizations like hbs which have been investing in civil society and policy makers for informed decision making. He lamented the shrinking of space for alternate voices.
The guest of honor, Member National Assembly and former parliamentary secretary on climate change, Ms Romina Khursheed Alam, said that she has been running a Green Parliamentarians Caucus in her tenure as Parliamentary Secretary on Climate change in the previous government with the support of hbs. In this regard she applauded the efforts of hbs in supporting her initiative and also their contribution in bridging the knowledge gap through research and dialogues. She also urged cooperate sector to come forward and invest in youth for environmental sustainability through Corporate Social Responsibility funds. She spoke about the reduction in plastic pollution which is much needed. During her tenure she was able to press on the issue in the parliament floor.
Members of the journalist’s cohort were represented medallions for their outstanding reporting on environment. Journalists at the event thanked the capacity building and sensitization this cohort offered them and committed to continue reporting on environmental issues as it is a topic that is of consequence and value to all humans and life on the planet.