EU Trains Journalists on Environmental, Climate Change

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The European Union (EU) Delegation in Sierra Leone has ended a five-day training programme on Environmental and Climate Change Reporting for 15 journalists from print and electronic media institutions across the country at the New Brookfields Hotel Conference Hall in Freetown.

This training programme which was fully funded by the EU and dispensed by The Economic Forum was instrumental to beef up environmental and climate change reporting in the country. The alarming rate at which the environment is deteriorating and its impact on the economy and on the livelihoods of Sierra Leoneans deserve greater coverage in the local media.

Minister for the Environment, Prof. Foday M. Jaward, reiterated the importance of capacity building for journalists on environmental reporting while highlighting the extent at which the environment has been depleted and the role that the media should be seen to be playing in awareness raising and policy implementation by state authorities.

The President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Ahmed Sahid Nasrallah, underscored the importance of specialized training for the media to enhance professionalism for journalists and noted that the EU’s initiative was timely and expressed appreciation for the generous gesture but further appealed for similar support in the future.

During the two days classroom sessions, Experts from the Economic Forum – Sierra Leone, trained journalists on the basic concepts of climate change to provide a thorough background knowledge and understanding of climate change in relation to the environment, its causes and effects, and strategies for mitigation, adaptation and resilience building and the media’s role in reporting environmental hazards.

The training session also focused on the tools for environmental and climate change reporting, editorial principles for environmental communication, the role of the media before, during and after disasters, the draft Climate Change Policy of Sierra Leone, the Paris Agreement, and the Sierra Leone National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), among others helped to build on the reporting skills of the trainees and also broadened their knowledge on contemporary environmental issues.

Katie Hannam of the British High Commission in Sierra Leone informed the journalists about the 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) – the United Nations Climate Change Summit that will be hosted in Glasgow in November.

The two-day field visits took the journalists to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give them the opportunity of understanding the organization’s mandate in the broader context of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. Visits to the Guma Dam at Mile 13 in the Western Area Peninsular National Park which serves as the main water catchment for Freetown and its environs, further exposed the alarming rate at which the forest cover has been depleted for construction and other purposes. The unregulated social activities currently on-going along the peninsular pose serious risks to the ecological health of the dam, the forest and the pristine beaches on the coastline of Freetown.  At Motormeh – the mudslide disaster area where more than 1000 people tragically lost their lives in 14th August 2017 disaster, was a stark reminder of the challenges to environmental protection.

The trainees also visited the EU funded ‘Freetown Tree Town’ project sites managed and implemented by the Freetown City Council, an action that seeks to grow more trees around the mountains of Mount Aureol, Freetown Amusement Park and other locations where hundreds of fast-growing trees have been planted to reforest degraded areas in the municipality.   

As Salifu Chernor Kamara, who reports for African Young Voices television, puts it, “This training was impactful and very timely. It is time for us to act collectively to prevent future disasters by regularly reporting environmental issues, to not only raise awareness but by also ensuring accountability and transparency in the sector to save our planet.”

EU Ambassador Tom Vens had this to say during the presentation ceremony at the end of the training session: “I am happy to hear about the level of enthusiasm from the trainees. I am also very happy about the production you have done despite the technical challenges you faced. And I can see that the training you have undergone is equally practical and not just theoretical. This outcome encourages us to continue to actively support you. But I also want to encourage you always pursue professionalism and support each other in your work.  The EU will not tell you what to write but with the right tools and knowledge I encourage you to impact society in a meaningful way through your work.’’

Ambassador Vens noted, “It was very encouraging to listen and watch your presentations.  I also noticed that after these five days of training, you have become advocates and not only journalists. I am really happy to see the level of enthusiasm you have demonstrated to protect the environment.” 

He encouraged the journalists to continue to report on environmental issues upon return to their local communities and to use the networking opportunities created at the training to provide further support to the entire group. He further promised that the EU would continue to look for more opportunities to support the media in performing its critical function to society.

Presentation of certificates to the trainees by the EU Ambassador, climaxed the program.