The media plays an important role in every society. Journalists, through their discretion, tell us stories of collective importance – exposing the voice of struggles and tragedy, carrying us through important social and political moments, celebrating achievements both large and small. The journalists who report the media document and narrate our history and inform our collective calls to action. Ongoing changes in our global environment create a need for the media to give greater attention to the interconnected ways climate change is impacting our planet—hence the emergence of “eco-journalism.”
It is crucial then that journalists understand the role of the environment in our lives. The intellectual approach and “truth” that a journalist chooses to portray regarding environmental issues directly impacts, and often shapes, public opinion and dialogue surrounding such issues. In societies that are divided, such as Cyprus, the challenge is even greater. Though Cyprus is politically divided, the environmental issues impact the ecology of the entire island and require cooperative action. Thus, it is vital for media on both sides of the island to work collaboratively with a shared understanding of common issues facing the environment and the collective responsibility to address them.
HasNa has been involved in a number of different programs on the island related to the media and environment, and for the first time, we are combining the two in an eco-journalism program to add to our range of projects in place on the island.
In the early 2000s, several HasNa programs trained both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot journalists on the island and one program even resulted in the island’s first bi-communal radio station. At this stage, our goal was primarily to have media on both sides of the island working together – a major step given the continuation of political division.
Beginning in 2012, we embarked on a series of bi-communal programs on the island to address the issue of illegal hunting on the island. The first educated environmental non-profit leaders on ways to address environmental conflict and establish a network of leaders devoted to this cause. This network has gone on to complete a further two-part project:, 1) educating children on the importance of conservation and 2) training legal and law enforcement officials to combat wildlife crime.
It may seem surprising that illegal hunting greatly impacts the entire country’s ecology. Since the sport of hunting is grounded in tradition, highlighting the negative impacts of widespread poaching as a political issue to be taken seriously presents a great challenge to conservation efforts. The more journalists are able to draw attention to this issue and document the detrimental impact of eschewing conservation has on the island, the more lively and productive the discourse can be, resulting in proactive measures to protect the island that is home to all Cypriots.
With several successful bi-communal programs training journalists and also environmental leaders, we have decided it is time to bridge the two areas. Working with partners from our first environmental program, Collaborative Solutions to Shared Environmental Problems, this November we will hold a workshop in Cyprus for university students studying journalism with a strong and demonstrated interest in the environment for a workshop on eco-journalism. The workshop aims to establish a network of environmentally sensitized journalists, who understand the relevance of environment as an issue in our daily lives, as well as the need to protect and defend the integrity and sustainability of the shared environment. Currently, our partners are spending the end of August and early September recruiting from the universities around the island for this program. Keep an eye out on HasNa’s website and social media for more information regarding this program!