UNDRR advocates Journalists support in tackling disaster risks

Mnena Iyorkegh, Abuja


Journalist have been urged to collaborate and build a stronger partnership with the government who are the policymakers, so as to focus more on proactive reporting of disasters risk reduction and management.

The submission was made by participants at the Media workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction in Mombasa Kenya, with the aim of promoting media participation in the dialogue for resilient communities.

The workshop also introduced participants to Production and Editorial essentials in Disaster Risk Reduction Reporting and introduced journalists to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction DRR progress.

At the end of the workshop, participants agreed on a ‘Road Map’ for specialized reporting based on the priorities for action of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The Communication Officer for UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction UNDRR Africa Regional office in Kenya, Isabel Injihia, enjoined journalists to always share experiences of their countries for effective reportage on disaster.

“We can place the responsibly on the journalist but we can still see how our role can come to play in the process. Our work is only made possible through the collaboration and partnerships such as the one we have with DIRAJ and other agencies such as Civil Society Organisations.

“Collaboration is key for us and we are happy to support your efforts in your countries, Regions and Sub Regions. We look forward to more proactive coverage as oppose to helpless kind of angle to disaster event, we are hoping to get more success stories being told where we can borrow good examples and translate them to other places,” he explained.

Also speaking at the event, the Secretary-General, Disaster Risk Reduction Network for African Journalists, DIRAJ, Mr. David Owino, emphasised the importance of the media training and a good working relationship between the government and the media

“The workshop has been very helpful and very interactive in many different ways, one is for the very first time we had the highest number of country representative share their experiences. As a journalist our service is to the public, we cannot sit back and just do nothing when people and their properties are in danger. I cannot sit back when I know that I have the knowledge and I have the capacity to influence the way things happen in the country, this is what drives me but there is a possibility in journalism which I can take advantage of and be of service to the people.

From now going forward it has to be business unusual, the government has always looked at media either as an enemy or as a tool that they can use when they want and then it ends there, but you realize that if you look at the circle of disaster and now they happen, they are slow, they progress slowly from bit to bit to bit.

If you’re going to use media as a tool then you’re not going to explore the full potential of it but you use media as a partner, if you bring media on the table it’s a partner then it means you’re working with them every step of the way and that is the only way that prevention can be possible when people walk and walk together from the start worth giving a crisis because if you only work during a crisis then you may not even know how to work with each other. That is why we find conflict but if we walk together through planning, policy development, through legislation all these things. And the media also understand what their role is in a very good way and they are able to serve the public not only in times of disaster but even in hard times so everybody know their part and what they need to do,” he said.

Cordial Relationship
In the same vein, a Senior Disaster Management officer from Uganda, Mrs. Pamela Kalule, explained that for both the media and government to handle Disaster Risk Reduction activities effectively there must be a cordial relationship.

“Giving the background where the public officer doesn’t want to interact with the media, you realize there is that gap, therefore it is important that we engage closely so that the media practitioners are able to understand the whole concept of DRR and management, and also for us as DRR practitioners and government officers to actually manage media relationships better. And the best way to this is to form a proactive approach to this level of engagement so as to improve coordination of how we do our work and end up with more effective information flow”.

A participant from Malawi, Matthews Malata, noted that the partnership between the media and the government should be without compromise.

“My experience is this, at times when there is no relationship between the media and the government; it really becomes hard to interact, mostly because of trust issues. At times we lack context because of some of the newsroom pressure or because of multitasking, interacting with others who really do not have information on the subject matter we are trying to handle, we find that the government doesn’t turn to be accountable.

For me the key thing is let’s work as partners, let’s build that relationship, if we do that we can save some of the things that form breakdown and a usual experience between the government and the media, so it has to be a long time kind of engagement,” Malata explained.

Another participant, Baboloki Semele, a journalist from Botwana, who shared his experience said “I’ve been doing infrastructure development and climate change reporting with a mindset that Botswana is doing well in terms of disaster and there is no need for us to sensitize the public. But been part of this training has opened my eyes. I have realized from other people’s experiences that there are so many uncovered disasters in Botswana that needs journalist in Botswana to report on.

I also like the fact that emphasis was given on data analysis and multimedia journalism which enables the use of different skills in reporting.

Also in the course of the training, field trips were made with a focus on conservation, which I would take it back to my country to educate the public on the importance of coexistence with nature because in one way or the other we need each other, so we don’t have to do away with nature, otherwise we will have crisis,” he said.

The media training was organised by UNDRR in partnership with The Disaster Risk Reduction Network for African Journalists, DIRAJ, through the financial support of the European Commission through the ACP-EU Programme ‘Building Disaster Resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa, had over 43 Journalists across 20 countries on the continent of Africa.

The training was aimed at empowering reporters across Africa to be able to prepare, produce and disseminate compelling stories that would build resilience among communities, with the submission of the Sendai framework.