Cambodian journalists alerted on climate change
“Average Cambodians associate climate change with deforestation, disease and increasing temperature, whereas Cambodian NGO workers see it as global increase in carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation,” said Trak Peaseth, BBC World Trust research officer, at a UNESCO climate change training for local journalists in Cambodia. He also emphasized the need for free and easy access to information regarding climate change in the country.
A climate change training workshop, funded by UNESCO and implemented by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), was recently held in Phnom Penh. It included a field trip, organized by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to provide direct experience on climate change in Koh Kong.
A total of 35 participants attended the workshop, which aimed to raise awareness and interest of journalists on climate change in their professional work. Themes ranged from informing about background climate change in global and national context, to introducing existing projects in Cambodia and practicing on how to integrate climate change issues into report writing.
As UNESCO’s Advisor for Communication and Information in Asia, Susanne Ornager, put it, “reporting about climate change is not easy; one has to understand scientific information and to present it to the public so that it is easy for them to digest”. “Remember that with pen, camera and microphone you have the power to make changes,” she added.
Adaptation was a keyword constantly used during the training to explain that climate change is not an issue that journalists or scientists can forbid or stop. What they can do is to assist people to adapt to it.
Eap Ponna, Director of the Cambodian Institute of Science and Technology, spoke about old equipment and its large gasoline consumption, which produces much more greenhouse gases in developing countries. He also presented alternatives that can clear or filter the emitted pollution substances.
In the framework of the training, participants visited the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary in Koh Kong to learn about the coastal ecology and spend time in two isolated fishery communities surrounded by mangrove forests. These communities are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and their ability to adapt to change is very limited. Quality education for children is the main issue, due to their parents’ lack of income from fishing, a consequence of marine resource reduction. The visit to the coastal villages provided journalists with a firsthand example of the problems affecting rural areas within Cambodia. It was a real opportunity to practice what they had been learning at the workshop in Phnom Penh.
Interventions of trainees at the workshop demonstrated their lack of knowledge about the climate change concept. The training helped them increase the overall awareness about the issue and improve their methods of reporting, by providing them not only with knowledge, but also with tools and key contacts for the future gathering of adequate information on climate change.
UNESCO’s Representative to Cambodia, Anne Lemaistre, stressed the importance of a journalist’s role in preparing people to become resilient to environmental irregularities and challenges. After the training, over 50 per cent of participants reported on climate change with 23 articles published, which helped alert people that global climate change is a significant issue affecting Asia.