German foundation applauds environmental journalist work in Pakistan

08:12 PM | 16 Dec, 2018
German foundation applauds environmental journalist work in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – Why is COP-24, taking pace in Poland on climate change issues, is not making headlines in the media despite Pakistan being high on the vulnerability index of climate change, asked German Ambassador to Pakistan Martin Kobler during a key note address he delivered among the galaxy of senior journalists, editors and anchor persons on Saturday.

The ambassador was speaking at an award ceremony titled, “Championing a Fair Future: Journalists on Climate Change & Resource Equity”, held by Heinrich Böll Stiftung at Ramada hotel, Islamabad .

Heinrich Boell Stiftung (hbs) is a German Green Foundation operational in the country for the past 25 years on issues pertaining to ecology, democracy and human rights.

The event was organised to acknowledge the contributions of the cohort of journalists on environment established by hbs in 2015 titled, “Journalists on Climate Change and Resource Equity” in order 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 celebrated and formalised this media association.

Most recently, reporters carried out field visits in Khanpur, Quetta, Gilgit, Thar coal power project and Hunza partnering with organisations working on environment and sustainability. After community visits and immersive talks, journalists reported on several issues such as the impact of mineral crushing in Khanpur; customary laws and resource equity in GB, and indigenous water conservation methods in Quetta.

Ambassador Kobler further emphasised 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.

Mome Saleem, head ecology programme and convener of the environmental journalists cohort of 90 members, gave an overview of this initiative and added 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 four 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,” she explained.

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.

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 also 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, Romina Khursheed Alam, former parliamentary secretary on climate change said that she has been running a Green Parliamentarians Caucus in her tenure as Parliamentary Secretary on Climate change in the previous government. 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.

A total of 65 anchor persons and media representatives were presented medallions for their outstanding reporting on environment . Journalists at the event thanked the capacity building and sensitisation this project 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.