UNESCO Launches ‘Climate Change In Africa: A Guidebook For Journalists’


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has published a climate change guidebook for African journalists to help them in their reporting on climatic issues in Africa. The guidebook entitled ‘Climate Change in Africa: A Guidebook for Journalists’ was launched at a workshop held at the UN Complex in Gigiri, Kenya from October 22 to 23 2013. The workshop participants were drawn from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Ms Emily Brown, Namibian Journalism Educator
Ms Emily Brown, Namibian Journalism Educator

According to UNESCO programme specialist responsible for the project and editor of the publication, Mr. Fackson Banda, “This guidebook is part of UNESCO’s overall effort to raise awareness of the interdisciplinary core of climate change, and how journalists can reflect it in their practices.”

He went further to say: “At the heart of this publication is a push for the type of climate expertise needed to resonate with African journalists and journalism educators – two important constituents for our work on capacity-building for specialized journalistic literacies.”

The guidebook is written by four media experts who linked climate change and journalistic practice within the context of African realities. They are Mr. Mike Shanahan and Ms Teresa Corcoran of the International Institute for Environment and Development, and Mr. Willie Shubert and Mr. Cameron Scherer of Internews/Earth Journalism Network.

The lead author of the guidebook, Mr. Shanahan said: “climate change is not the story – it is the context in which so many other stories will unfold….We will affect every beat of journalism, from politics and business reporting to consumer and health stories. African journalists and their editors should not see climate change as ‘just an environment’ issue but as a new reality that will create growing demand from audiences for comprehensive, clear and locally-relevant coverage.”

Mr. James Fahn, Executive Director of Internews, while speaking about the involvement  of Internews in the project said: “The great challenge for journalists is to learn how to turn this global issue into a local story their audiences can relate to … or rather, how to turn it into many stories. The all-encompassing nature of climate change lends itself to reporting from a multitude of angles, reflecting its impact on so many facets of society, the economy and life in general.”

Leading up to the publication was a workshop held in Kenya at which 23 African experts, including academics and journalists, took time to review the initial draft of the guidebook. Namibian journalism educator, Ms Emily Brown, highlighted how the media in her country tended to bury climate change and environmental stories in the back pages, and urged journalists to take part in re-setting the agenda.

Mr. Bonny Alams, a Nigerian journalist said while contributing to the discussion that “For us to achieve [such] reportage, we must work to change people’s perception of the daily consumption of what Nigerians refer to us ‘juicy’ stories that revolve under political, economic and social life”.

Professor Workineh Kelbessa of Addis Ababa University stressed issues of ethics and environmental justice as part of the interdisciplinary core of climate change journalism. He emphasized the need to correlate the environment and humanity, and said that the manuscript needed to reflect the link between indigenous knowledge and science.

The finalised guidebook is an information resource to be used in both the newsroom and classroom, and will be distributed in a strategic partnership involving UNESCO, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Internews.

A series of Google Hangouts will be spread out across the whole of February to raise interest amongst African journalists and others interested in a deeper understanding of reporting climate change prevention and mitigation.

Within UNESCO, the guidebook scores a first: it is one of the first two publications to be published under the Organization’s new Open Access policy. This means that users of this publication have terms for use and re-use of the publication, as spelled out in the UNESCO Open Access Repository.