Increasing environmental knowledge and capacity will boost public awareness of good environmental practices, disaster mitigation, and climate policies.

This conclusion was obtained at the National Conference of Environment Journalists titled” Climate Crisis Emergency: Strengthen  Environmental Journalism Amid the Crisis,” held at Wisma Hijau, in the West Java city of Depok p (KNJLH+), on January 19-20, 2023.

“It is true that the journey of our struggle remains long and we need to expand our environment-related knowledge,” said Joni Aswira, Chairman of The Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) which organized the conference.

Aswira, who was recently elected to chair SIEJ for the period of 2022-2025, said that strengthening environmental journalism is paramount as the world, including Indonesia, experiencing a rise in extreme whether events due to climate change, as well as pollution, biodiversity loss and other environmental issues..

The conference was held in hopes to help journalists across Indonesia to reflect on their journalistic works, broaden their knowledge, and further encourage actions to save the environment and natural resources through their report.

Zulkifli Mangkau, a freelance journalist from Gorontalo, said that strengthening environmental journalism can be done by boosting the participation and collaboration of journalists in reporting on the environment. Pushing environmental topics to the forefront in the newsrooms across the country is also crucial.

Wulan Yanurwati, a journalist from Radar Jogja said that besides documenting information and events on the field, journalists should also be able to build optimism on environmental sustainability through their stories.

“We need to pay more attention to the environment, work within our respective capabilities.  Even though the effect would be slow, we need to take these small steps,” she said.

For Eny Musliha, a freelance journalist from Lampung, to be able to raise awareness and optimism, environmental reports must be based on a strong will to dive deeper into the issue, deepen knowledge about the environment, and include various perspectives.

Reporting should not solely rely on close relations with a source. “Journalists need to have an environmental perspective. They should not only listen but also spread the knowledge they obtained from the field,” Musliha said.

Bagja Hidayat, Executive Editor of Tempo Magazine believes the environment is the foundation of sustainability for the present and the future. Government policies, for instance, will carry an impact on the environment and therefore in devising them, must always consider the sustainability of the environment.

Hidayat adds it is important for journalists to have an environmental perspective to synthesize data, opinions, and be able to assess an event or issue, as journalists plays a role in enriching the knowledge of the readers and in triggering productive conversation.

To enrich their environmental perspective, journalists must broaden their knowledge, network and exchange of information. In addition, journalists must have a strong desire to explore information, data and opinions in depth.

“When someone says it is raining outside and another say it is not, what you need to do is open up the window and see for yourself,” Hidayat said.

The conference was attended by 100 participants including representatives from 24 SIEJ nodes, from Aceh to Papua, where they heard from experts and follow discussions  on various topics such as the green economy, energy transition, disaster mitigation, and biodiversity.

Other participants include representatives from state institutions, civil society organisations, and environmental activists.

Digestible environmental reports

News, as a journalistic product, must be able to provide understanding to the public regarding environmental conditions, including through narratives and contexts that are easy to understand.

Andi Muttaqien, Deputy Director of Satya Bumi — an organization focused on advocating forest and nature protection – believes the threats of a climate crisis need to be followed up with a strengthening of the participation and also knowledge of journalists related to environmental issues.

He believes the impact of this strengthening will contribute in boosting public participation in actions to protect the environment.

“Journalists play a role in reporting and sharing about what is happening, in a language that can be easily understood by the general public. This can raise people’s awareness on the climate crisis and ways to mitigate it,” Muttaqien said.

Journalists are also expected to help the public to comprehensively understand environmental context. Zenzi Suhadi, Executive director of The Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI), said that environmental problems are universal, cross border, and not focused on any particular species or population.

He took the example of bamboo, if it became extinct, the dictionary would not only lose the word bamboo but also those denoting its by-products such as baskets, fish traps, and huts made with or using bamboo.

“If two million living species become extinct, where would our language go?” Suhadi asked.

Raising awareness 

For the government, environmental journalists play a role in raising public awareness about climate change, environmental policies, and reminding disaster risks in various regions.

Agus Justianto, Director General for Sustainable Forest Management at the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry Affairs (KLHK) says that the role of journalists is becoming increasingly vital amid the current deluge of information.

Justianti believes the data gathering, field observation, and verification activities that are part of reporting can help the public get access to accurate information.

“Environmental journalism is one of the best ways to raise awareness about the environment, especially climate change,” Justianto said.

He said that journalists play a key role in spreading climate commitments and the government’s environmental policies to the public and promoting synergies between environmental policy, environmental health, sustainable development, and climate change.

Journalists need to have an environmental perspective. They should not only listen but also spread the knowledge they obtained from the field.

Eny Musliha, freelance journalist

Regarding public safety, journalists play a role in informing the public on issues related to natural disaster mitigation programs. 

Prasinta Dewi, Deputy for prevention of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency  (BNPB) reiterated journalists’ role in reminding the public about the disaster risks in their respective regions.

Flood potentials, for example, can be identified by looking at the duration of the rain – its intensity and visibility in the area. This information can be relayed to the public, prompting communities living in flood prone areas to prepare themselves or be evacuated.

“Media is part of the Penta helix or the forum for reducing the risks of disaster, one of our partners in disaster management,” Dewi said.

A Penta helix, including the media, is expected to maximize public education about how the environment and natural disasters are a matter that should be handled by all parties. It should also remind us that we are living in a disaster prone region, Dewi added.

About the writer
Themmy Doaly

Themmy Doaly

Themmy Doaly has been working as Mongabay-Indonesia contributor for North Sulawesi region since 2013. While in the last nine years he has also been writing for a number of news sites in Indonesia, including...

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