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Somali journalists tackle climate change, environmental reporting

By Mohamed Olad Hassan
Saturday May 4, 2024

FILE - A man attempts to rescue a boy from raging floodwaters following heavy rains in Mogadishu, Somalia, Nov. 9, 2023. Farah Omar Nur, the secretary general of the Federation of Somali Journalists, says environmental journalism is not easy, especially in Somalia.

WASHINGTON — Marking World Press Freedom Day on Friday, Somali journalists continue to struggle with reporting on climate change and environmental issues in their country because of insecurity and the dangers connected to environmental journalism.

This year, Somalia marks the day as El Nino, a naturally occurring climate pattern associated with increased temperatures worldwide, worsens the abnormally heavy rainfall hitting the country’s south and central regions.

Farah Omar Nur, the secretary general of the Federation of Somali Journalists, a Mogadishu-based agency that advocates for reporters’ rights and safety, said environmental journalism is not easy, especially in Somalia.

“In Somalia, reporters and the news outlets do not always get the funding and the proper training for environmental journalism, and those who try often face challenges, including insecurity and threats from the armed groups,” Nur said.

Nur said that the small amount of training given journalists for environmental reporting has helped many to understand the significance of reporting about the planet.

“With the help of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia, we have been able to provide training to some journalists for environmental issue reporting, but that is not enough,” Nur said.

According to a recent report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, heavy rains have led to localized flooding affecting more than 120,000 people. The worst-affected areas are Jubaland, Hirshabelle and Southwest states of Somalia.

Nur says another challenge is the logistics of reporting on environmental problems.

“The rain has caused flooding in many areas of Somalia, destroying roads, bridges and other important infrastructure. Therefore, it is not easy for a journalist to travel to remote rural locations,” Nur said. “In addition, armed clan militias and the al-Shabab militant group — who are not friendly with independent journalists — have [a] huge presence in many areas.”

Marking World Press Freedom Day, the United Nations in Somalia raised the importance of the work Somali journalists do in reporting on “the climate challenges facing their country” and encouraged increased coverage.

“Somalia is on the front line of climate change, with the climate crisis affecting the lives of millions of Somalis, especially the most vulnerable. Much more needs to be done to raise awareness of all aspects of the environmental crisis, and journalism is indispensable for this purpose,” said the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Somalia, Catriona Laing.

“For Somalia to achieve its goals of stability and sustainable development, it is necessary for journalists to report accurately, timely and comprehensively on environmental issues and their consequences, as well as on possible solutions,” she said.

The U.N. General Assembly established World Press Freedom Day in 1993. The theme this year is “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the Environmental Crisis.” It’s dedicated to the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the current global environmental crisis.

It aims to highlight the significant role that the press, journalism, access and dissemination of information play in ensuring a sustainable future.

A new report published by UNESCO on May 3, warns of increasing violence against and intimidation of journalists reporting on the environment and climate disruption.

The report said about 749 journalists or news media reporting on environmental issues have been attacked in the last 15 years, and online disinformation has surged dramatically in this period.

UNESCO is calling for stronger support for environmental journalists and better governance of digital platforms.


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