Thursday, October 27, 2022

Fiji academic warns over media ‘climate injustice’ in open access webinar

Open Access Australasia deputy chair Dimity Flanagan . . . moderating
the "look at the evidence" webinar on the media and climate crisis.
IMAGE: Open Access screen shot APR


A Fiji-based academic challenged the Pacific region’s media and policymakers today over climate crisis coverage, asking whether the discriminatory style of reporting was a case of climate injustice.

Associate Professor Shailendra Singh, head of the journalism programme at the University of the South Pacific, said climate press conferences and meetings were too focused on providing coverage of “privileged elite viewpoints”.

“Elites have their say, but communities facing the brunt of climate change have their voices muted,” he told the Look at the Evidence: Climate Journalism and Open Science webinar panel exploring the role of journalism in raising climate awareness in the week-long Open Access Australasia virtual conference.

Dr Singh, who is also on the editorial board of Pacific Journalism Review and was speaking for the recently formed Asia Pacific Media Network (APMN), threw open several questions to the participants about what appeared to be “discriminatory reporting”.

“Is slanted media coverage marginalising grassroots voices? Is this a form of climate injustice?” he asked.

“Are news media unknowingly perpetuating climate injustice?”

He cited many of the hurdles impacting on the ability of Pacific news media to cover the climate crisis effectively, such as lack of resources in small media organisations and lack of reporting expertise.

“We are unable to have specialist climate reporters as in some other countries; our journalists tend to be a jack-of-all-trades, and master of none,” he said.

He did not mean this in a “disparaging manner”, saying “it’s just our reality” given limited resources.

Key Pacific media handicaps included:

• The smallness of Pacific media systems;
• Limited revenue and small profit margins;
• A high attrition rate among journalists (mostly due to uncompetitive salaries);
• Pacific journalists “don’t have the luxury” of specialising in one area; and
• No media economies of scale.

“Our journalists don’t build sufficient knowledge in any one topic for consistent or in-depth reporting,” he said. “And this is more deeply felt in areas such as climate reporting.”

He cited pioneering research on Pacific climate reporting by Samoan climate change journalist Lagipoiva Dr Cherelle Jackson, saying such Pacific media research was “scarce”.

‘Staying afloat in Paradise’
A research fellow with the Reuters Institute and Oxford University, Dr Jackson carried out research on how media in her homeland and six other Pacific countries were covering climate change. The 2010 report was titled Staying Afloat in Paradise: Reporting Climate Change in the Pacific.

Pacific journalists and editors “have a responsibility to inform readers on how climatic changes can affect them, she argued. But this did not translate into the pages of their newspapers.

“Climate change is simply not as high a priority for Pacific newsrooms as issues such as health, education and politics which all take precedence over even general environment reporting,” Dr Jackson wrote.

“For a region mainly classified by the United Nations as ‘least developed’ and ‘developing’ countries, it is apparent that there are more pressing issues than climate change.

“But the fact that the islands of the Pacific are already at the bottom end of the scale in regards to wealth and infrastructure, and the fact that climate change is also threatening the mere existence of some islands, should make it a big story. But it isn’t.”

She has continued her advocacy work on climate change as climate editor of the Associated Press and completing a doctorate on the topic.

Newsroom's Marc Daalder
Newsroom’s Marc Daalder . . . “we need this [open access] to happen
for climate reporting”. IMAGE: Open Access Week 2022 screenshot APR
The Open Access Australasia media panel today also included Newsroom’s Marc Daalder, The Conversation’s New Zealand science editor Veronica Meduna, and Guardian columnist Dr Jeff Sparrow of the University of Melbourne. It was chaired by Open Access Australasia deputy chair Dimity Flanagan.

Critical of paywalls
Daalder spoke about how open access to scientific papers was vitally important for journalists who needed to read complete papers, not just abstracts. He was critical of the paywalls on many scientific research papers.

Open access enabled journalists to do their job better and this was clearly shown during the covid-19 pandemic — “and we need this to happen for climate reporting”.

Meduna said it took far too long for research, such as on climate change, to filter through into public debate. Open access helped to reduce that gap.

She also said the success of The Conversation model showed that there was a growing demand for scientists communicating directly with the public with the help of journalists.

Dr Sparrow called for a social movement for meaningful action on the climate crisis and more scientific literacy was needed to enable this.

Highly critical of the “dysfunctional” academic publishing industry, he said open access would contribute to “radically accessible” science for the public.

The panel was organised by Tuwhera digital and open access publishing team at Auckland University of Technology.


Open Access Week 2022
Open Access Week 2022 … the media climate webinar panel.
IMAGE: Open Access Week screenshot APR

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Pacific lessons in climate crisis journalism and combating disinformation - David Robie

Media educator and Asia Pacific Report editor Professor David Robie tells of the resilience
and courage of Pacific journalists faced with many challenges.
IMAGE: MediAsia Iafor/La Trobe screenshot

New Zealand journalist and academic David Robie has covered the Asia-Pacific region for international media for more than four decades.

An advocate for media freedom in the Pacific region, he is the author of several books on South Pacific media and politics, including an account of the French bombing of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour in 1985 — which took place while he was on the last voyage.

In 1994 he founded the journal Pacific Journalism Review examining media issues and communication in the South Pacific, Asia-Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.

He is also convenor of the Pacific Media Watch media freedom collective, which collaborates with Reporters Without Borders in Paris, France.

Until he retired at Auckland University of Technology in 2020 as that university’s first professor in journalism and founder of the Pacific Media Centre, Dr Robie organised many student projects in the South Pacific such as the Bearing Witness climate action programme.

He currently edits Asia Pacific Report and is one of the founders of the new Aotearoa New Zealand-based NGO Asia Pacific Media Network.

Watch the conversation between Dr Nasya Nahfen and Asia Pacific Report editor Professor David Robie. VIDEO: MediAsia Iafor/Café Pacific Media

In this interview conducted by Mediasia organising committee member Dr Nasya Bahfen of La Trobe University for this week’s 13th International Asian Conference on Media, Communication and Film that ended today in Kyoto, Japan, Professor Robie discusses a surge of disinformation and the challenges it posed for journalists in the region as they covered the covid-19 pandemic alongside a parallel “infodemic” of fake news and hoaxes.

The MediAsia “conversation” on Asia-Pacific issues in Kyoto, Japan.
IMAGE: Iafor screenshot APR
He also explores the global climate emergency and the disproportionate impact it is having on the Asia-Pacific.

Paying a tribute to the dedication and courage of Pacific journalists, he says with a chuckle: “All Pacific journalists are climate journalists — they live with it every day.”

Challenges facing the Asia-Pacific media
Challenges facing the Asia-Pacific media . . . La Trobe University’s Dr Nasya Bahfen
and Asia Pacific Report’s Dr David Robie in conversation.
IMAGE: Iafor screenshot APR

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Defend NZ’s ‘fragile democracy’ by tackling disinformation, says advocate

Anjum Rahman, project lead of the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono
. . . “If our democracy fails, all those other things fail as well.”
IMAGE: David Robie/Asia Pacific Report


A human rights advocate has appealed for people in Aotearoa New Zealand to take personal responsibility in the fight against disinformation and to upskill their critical thinking skills.

Anjum Rahman, project lead of the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono, said this meant taking responsibility for verifying the accuracy and source of information before passing it on and not fuelling hate and misunderstanding.

“Our democracy is very fragile,” she warned while delivering the annual David Wakim Memorial Lecture 2022 with the theme “Protecting Democracy in an Online World” at Parnell’s Jubilee Hall.

She said communities were facing challenging and rapidly changing times with climate change, conflicts, inflation and the ongoing pandemic.

“If our democracy fails, all those other things fail as well,” she said.

“And for those of us who are more vulnerable it is a matter of life and death.

“Who most stand to lose their freedom if democracy fails? Who will be on the frontline to be exterminated?”

Rahman is co-chair of the Christchurch Call Advisory Network and a member of the Independent Advisory Committee of the Global Internet Forum for Countering Terrorism.

Argued strongly for diversity
As an advocate, she has argued strongly for many years in support of diversity and inclusion and in 2019 was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

On the third anniversary of the 15 March 2019 mosque massacre, she wrote in a column for The Spinoff that “we don’t need any more empty platitudes of sorrow . . . we need firm action and strong resolve. Across the board.”

The David Wakim Memorial Lecture 2022.                            Video: Billy Hania

The recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry were more critical now than ever, and absolutely urgent, she wrote.

“In a world that feels chaotic, with war, rising prices, anger and hate expressed in protests across the world, our hearts seek a certainty that isn’t there.

“We need more urgency, and in many areas. I’m still disappointed with the Counter-Terrorism legislation passed last year, granting greater powers without evidence of any benefit. Hate speech legislation has been delayed, and we await a full review and overhaul of the national security system.”

A founding member of the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, Rahman gave a wide-ranging address tonight on the online challenges for democracy, and answered a host of questions from the audience of about 100.

“I’m really worried about trolls,” said one. “They affect government, they influence voters, they have an impact on all sorts of decision making – what can be done about it?”

Rahman replied that it was very difficult question – “I wish there was a simple answer.”

The audience at the Pax Christi-hosted David Wakim Memorial
Lecture 2022 at Parnell’s Jubilee Hall. IMAGE: David Robie/APR

Removing troll incentives

She said there needed to be more education and greater awareness of the activities of trolls and the sort of social media platforms they operated on.

One problem was that the more attention paid trolls got, it often meant the more money they were getting.

A challenge was to remove the incentive being given to them.

Award-winning cartoonist Malcolm Evans asked Rahman what her response was to the global situation “right now” with the invasion of Ukraine where people were “under intense pressure to vilify the Russians . . . treating them as ‘evil’.”

He added that “we live in a time that is probably the most dangerous that I have experienced in my lifetime … we are facing an Armageddon and I blame the media for that.

“It’s a disgrace.”

This led to a discussion by Pax Christi Aotearoa’s Janfrie Wakim about how Evans lost his job as a cartoonist on The New Zealand Herald in 2003 for “naming Israeli apartheid” over the repression of Palestinians to the loud applause of the audience.

‘Quality journalism’ paywalls
In a discussion about media, Rahman said she was disturbed by the failures of the media business model that meant increasingly “quality journalism” was being placed behind paywalls while the public that could not afford paywalls were being served “poor quality” information.

Introducing Anjum Rahman, Pax Christi’s Susan Healy said how “especially delighted the Wakim whanau were” that she had agreed to give the lecture.

David Wakim was the inaugural president of Pax Christi Aotearoa, an independent section of Pax Christi International, a Catholic organisation founded in France at the end of World War Two committed to working “to transform a world shaken by violence, terrorism, deepening inequalities, and global insecurity”.

Growing up in a Sydney Catholic family, Wakim was an advocate of interfaith dialogue. His travels in Muslim countries strengthened his links with the three faiths of Abraham – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

He helped establish the Council of Christians and Muslims in Auckland, but was especially committed to Palestinian rights.

Wakim died in 2005 and the annual lecture honours his and Pax Christi’s mahi for Tiriti o Waitangi, interfaith dialogue, peace education, human rights and restorative justice.

Anjum Rahman addressing the Pax Christi-hosted David Wakim
Memorial Lecture 2022.
IMAGE: Billy Hania video screenshot/APR

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