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16 Feb 2022 | Transboundary Landscapes

Capacity-building workshop for journalists on environment and climate reporting in Gilgit Baltistan

Syed Muhammad Abubakar

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We collaborated with WWF-Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan Information Department, Gilgit Baltistan Environmental Protection Agency (GB-EPA), and the Union of Journalists Gilgit Baltistan to organize a capacity-building workshop on media reporting on socioecological resilience in Gilgit, Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan.

The three-day workshop focused on enhancing the capacity of journalists in Gilgit Baltistan on reporting environment and climate change, field reporting, identifying fake news, understanding the basic components of a feature story, and pitching stories to international media. Two journalists each from ten districts of Gilgit Baltistan, along with journalism students from Karakoram International University (KIU) participated in the workshop.


Environmental issues and the media

On Day 1, environmental experts and media trainers briefed the participating journalists on a host of environmental issues and ways to highlight them through various sources of media. Key topics included environmental degradation in Gilgit Baltistan, journalism ethics, effective ways of reporting, and digital marketing.

Shehzad Shigri, Director, GB-EPA, emphasized the need to promote environmental journalism and highlighted the role of media in bringing environmental issues to the forefront. He also gave an overview of the environmental laws in Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan, and the environmental challenges of Gilgit Baltistan.

Raja Saleem Khan, Minister Works, Government of Gilgit Baltistan, and Raja Azam Khan, Minister for Education, Gilgit Baltistan, gave the opening remarks and emphasized raising public awareness on environmental issues. They informed that the government of Gilgit Baltistan is developing climate change adaptation and mitigation plans to protect the vulnerable communities from climatic impacts.

Alina Shigri, Anchor, 92 News, and one of the workshop trainers urged the participating journalists to take responsibility for prioritizing and reporting on environmental challenges. According to Shigri, “Approximately 80-90% of our news is centered around politics. Environmental news must be given fair attention in our reporting. Social media is also an important tool, which at times plays a more powerful role in sensitizing the public and authorities than mainstream media.”

Amjad Ali, Digital Marketing Specialist, presented on affiliate marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), encouraging the journalists to use these approaches to further disseminate their work.

Syed Muhammad Abubakar, KMC Officer, ICIMOD, and one of the workshop trainers, presented on the impacts of climate change in northern Pakistan; components of a feature story; pitching story ideas to international media; the role of climate communication in advancing climate change adaptation and mitigation; fake news on climate change; and social media activism to further promote journalistic work in the HKH.

Abubakar shared ICIMOD’s research on land-use change, tourism satellite account, and organic potential among the participating journalists.

Abubakar also shared the key findings from his Master’s research (Melting glaciers, climate change impacts on snow leopard, food security in northern Pakistan, and media reporting in Pakistan), which investigated the impacts of climate change in the HKH region of Pakistan. A survey he conducted with 15 journalists of the Gilgit Press Club revealed that the local media in Gilgit Baltistan needs capacity-building, climate knowledge in local languages, and government support for effective reporting on the climate crisis.


Witnessing and reporting environmental challenges

On Day 2, the participants were divided into three teams and tasked to visit the districts of Nagar and Hunza, to acquaint themselves with the environmental challenges of the region which include increased glacier melting, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), landslides, and unsustainable tourism activities. They visited Hopper Valley, Shisper Glacier, and Attabad Lake. The media trainers briefed the journalists on how to report various environmental issues and present their findings.

On Day 3, one participant from each group presented their findings on the environmental, social, cultural, economic, and historical aspects of the visited sites, and sought feedback from other participants and experts.

Ahmar Sohail Basra, Director, Radio Pakistan Gilgit, and Visiting Lecturer, KIU also presented on environmental journalism with a focus on its implementation in Pakistan; research and data analysis in media; and concepts and visualization of stories for various media platforms. Basra also highlighted the challenges environmental journalists face in Pakistan, which mainly include the lack of training and media equipment, and lack of protection from threats.

The documentary on organic agriculture  produced by ICIMOD and WWF-Pakistan was formally screened in the presence of Fatah Ullah Khan, Minister for Information, Planning and Development, Gilgit Baltistan. The documentary highlights the organic potential of the region and its benefits to the environment, economy, and people.



The importance of training journalists and the way forward

In a special video message, our Deputy Director General Izabella Koziell highlighted the need for sociological resilience in the HKH due to climate change and anthropogenic changes, with the COVID-19 pandemic further intensifying these impacts. She acknowledged that effective reporting of the environment is important to raise awareness among the masses and for policy action. Koziell added, “Training of journalists from the HKH is important, as they have a better understanding of the environmental changes occurring in the region and the platforms through which to inform masses. As a knowledge hub, ICIMOD considers it vital to disseminate relevant information regarding environmental sustainability and improvements of livelihoods.”

In his closing remarks, Fatah Ullah Khan shared that the current government is mitigating climate change through its flagship 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme, through which ten billion trees will be planted across Pakistan.

Syed Muhammad Abubakar and Alina Shigri also shared the trainers’ feedback and suggestions with the participants, which was based on the learnings of the workshop. The workshop highlighted the need for more such media trainings in all districts of Gilgit Baltistan, with added focus on social media and content promotion through YouTube.

As a follow-up to the workshop, our Hindu Kush Karakoram Pamir Landscape (HKPL) Initiative will organize a regional media workshop in 2022, to sensitize journalists from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan on pressing environmental challenges in the region.


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