Climate change up in Mindanao media summit

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/23 April) – Media executives and select reporters will gather in Davao City late this week for a two-day summit on climate change that aims to help journalists do better reporting on the environment particularly disasters.

Saying it is crucial for journalists to understand the science of climate change to help communities prepare for its impact, organizers said they have chosen it as the theme for the 9th Mindanao Media Summit scheduled on April 25-26.

The summit, organized by MindaNews, Philippine Press Institute and the Philippine Information Agency, will gather publishers, station managers, editors, news editors and columnists.

If journalists can report better on climate change, they can also help communities prepare for, if not prevent, massive devastation, the organizers said.

“Mindanao faces the threat of climate change that has the potential of affecting thousands of families across the island,” they said in a briefer.

Since super typhoon Sendong hit the northern part of Mindanao on December 16-17, 2011, reporting on natural and manmade disasters has been deemed a challenge for journalists, some of whom were not “very well-prepared to cover such incidents”.

The theme is a follow-up to the 7th Mindanao Media Summit in General Santos City, which focused on media’s role in relation to Mindanao’s critical environment. The earlier summit came just a week before Sendong struck.

Organizers said the experience with typhoon Pablo in December 2012 and the continuous flooding of the rivers in Cotabato further showed the need to train the media in reporting environmental disasters.

“(This is) to avoid sensationalism or sow unnecessary panic to listeners or viewers,” they said, adding, “providing accurate and timely information has never been more important than it is today.”

There are many local journalists, they said, who could help educate their readers and listeners but who are themselves poorly informed, not having been trained to understand the language of science.

“..Journalists need to have better skills in getting verifiable and credible information so that they can report accurately the facts regarding storms, typhoons or the rise in floodwaters to help communities …,” they added.

Journalists have also failed to engage the general public in a discussion on the environment issue which is crucial in exposing specific concerns related to disasters such as health and economics, the organizers noted. They cited the need to network with scientists, meteorologists, disaster management councils, local government units and build other sources of science journalism stories.

Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder will give the keynote speech of the summit. Around 10
resource persons from government, non-government, and media organizations from the Philippine Climate Change Commission will tackle the theme.

The Mindanao Media Forum started consultations in 2011 on the training needs of journalists who are covering disasters. Initially, there were small group discussions with journalists based in Region 12 and Mguindanao.

In the 2011 summit, Mindanao Times publisher Jesus Dureza challenged the media to produce more critical stories and go beyond the usual fare of reportage on the deteriorating environmental situation in Mindanao.

“Study very well and deliver the correct message,” he said, citing that resource conflict is emerging as a more serious source of conflict in Mindanao making environment watch the “call of the moment.”

In her rationale of the summit, MindaNews editor Carolyn Arguillas cited that floods in Mindanao have displaced more people than wars did.

Arguillas said roughly 100,000 people were displaced by war in Mindanao in 2011. But she pointed out that in January 2011 alone floods displaced about 855,480 persons, which is 43 percent of the total number (2 million) of people displaced by floods all over the country. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)