Saturday, January 5, 2008

The big cheat on Bali press coverage of journalists of developing countries

Welcome to the climate change media circus, a world populated with lies, cheat and false hopes, where the hopes of an honest and fear coverage of the Bali conference by independent journalists from third world countries landed in a world of disappointment. As we know, the Bali circus is over, disappointment is big on its results.However we will not focus on its content and results, but on a slightly different issue which however grabbed the attention of international media and even good money from well-known organizations: the funding of journalists from developing countries by The Climate Media Partnership, which was supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Open Society Institute, IDRC, Commonwealth Foundation and the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation. The names above mentioned are world class ones, the purpose of the partnership was really worthwhile: to help Closing the Climate Media Divide, and in particular “to raise the skills of developing country journalists in increasing the quantity, quality and relevance of information on international climate change negotiations flowing from the UNFCCC Climate Summit to local editors, readers and audiences.”Such purposes should have made very happy independent media professionals from developing countries who are chronically lacking funds for the coverage of the environmental issues. Climate change is such an important problem that the participation of developing countries is vital to implement the Kyoto protocol. Therefore an independent coverage of those issues from local journalists would have been essential to raise awareness on these issues.Many organizations tried to help the work of journalists from developing countries but the organization which took the lead to carry out this purpose (and got good funding from the above mentioned organizations) was the Climate Media Partnership.As it is written on its web site “Internews, Panos and IIED have joined forces to support developing world journalism and perspectives from the heart of the international climate negotiations. Over 40 journalists from Asia, Africa and Latin America are participating in a climate media fellowship programme designed to improve media coverage of the Bali UN Climate Summit and climate change issues in developing countries.” The rules foresaw the exclusive participation of journalists from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean countries. The journalists who got the fellowship from the partnership would have had a gold opportunity to do the coverage of the climate change conference in Bali. Many journalists applied but were turned down. The justification was the high number of highly qualified applicants.However by looking at the journalists who were selected by the Partnership, their productivity and their provenience, the story is a completely different one. Maybe it would be worthwhile for the funders above mentioned to double check the numbers to see that the so called “partnership” at best did miss its mentioned purpose. At worst it did cheat on the participants given the numbers of exceptions to the rules defined at the selection stage, and also to the low productivity of the journalists selected.And let’s finally see the long list of exceptions:
1) first, from an ethical point of view, journalists belonging to the companies part of the partnership should have not been considered. However this was not the case: of the 50 journalists selected by the partnership 5 (10% of the total) did belong to the companies part of the partnership: 4 Internews , 1 Panos.
2) the journalists were supposed to come from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean countries. Again this rule was not respected: 5 journalists came from outside those areas of the world: 1 Brazil, 2 Europe, 1 NYC, 1 France (even a web designer).
3) Maybe the most striking aspect of the participation of the journalists selected is their productivity:11 of them did not write any article at all (22% of the total 50). 62% wrote up to 5 articles, 26% between 6 and 11 articles and 12% between 16 and 58 articles. It is interesting to notice that the 2 most productive journalists were from Indonésia and for them, supposedly there were no travel expenses.
4) The participation of indipendent journalists (not belonging to newspapers of the government or the “establishment” of developing countries) was rare.In fact it seems that the Bali participation was for most of them a well-paid holiday for well connected journalists rather than a good coverage of the climate change issues by indipendent journalists of developing countries.
Serious questions arise about:
1) how the world wants to address the problems of climate change and the awareness of developing countries if the people who do cover these issues for developing countries seem rather on holidays during such important conferences like Bali ones;
2) how the government and private organizations do allocate their funds without checking on the seriousness of the implementation of the projects financed but only to their purposes.
3) In other words it is all too nice and good say “we want to help developing countries to raise their awareness of climate change issues to help the world” if, at the end of the day, what happens is another cheat on those countries and on their independent journalists.

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