ZELA introduces a journalism mentorship program on climate change, environmental justice, and corporate accountability.


June 9, 2023

As the effects of climate change have become a global concern with increased newsworthiness, there has been a rise in environmental reporting and journalists’ interest in specializing in the environment beat.

However, this was not always the case, and 15 journalists who converged in Mutare this week for a journalism mentorship program on climate change, environmental justice, and corporate accountability organized by ZELA in partnership with The Feed said environmental reporting in Zimbabwe still has a long way to go.

The reporters who represented various media organizations, including print, online, broadcast, and multimedia platforms, said they faced such challenges as the politicization of environmental news, a lack of training on environmental reporting, and outdated information sources to become competitive global environmental reporters.

“I agree that we need to address many challenges, and one of the greatest impediments to effectively reporting on the environment is disinformation,” said Green Governance Zimbabwe Director Frank Mpahlo as he unpacked climate change and environmental issues, explaining why journalists needed to be concerned.

“Your role as journalists is to tell factual environmental stories and suggest solutions to the challenges you will be reporting on. Energy transition and climate change stories must go beyond and give specific context because communities can disengage when they feel they are always depicted as victims,” he added.

In his presentation on the role of the media in climate, environmental justice, and mining, award-winning environmental reporter Farai Matiashe said it was possible to infuse environmental issues into any news story.

“It is all about identifying the right angle and offering solutions for affected communities. It is not enough to just report on what is going wrong in a community. Environmental reporting should be solution journalism, which not only gives solutions but also questions if solutions are working and, if not, why they are not working,” said Matiashe.

As part of the mentorship program, ZELA Legal Officer Manele Mpofu explained “Just Transition, Loss and Damage, Reparations, Climate Finance, Climate Adaptation,” and Climate Mitigation” as key climate change and environmental justice concepts that environmental journalists need to be well versed with. In addition, Legal Officers Michelle Chitando and Josephine Chiname, respectively, gave overviews of key and emerging climate change trends, focusing on the legal and policy outlook for climate change, mining, and human rights and spotlighting governing instruments that include the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the Paris Agreement.

After the reporters were taken through the technical aspects of reporting on climate change, environmental justice, and corporate accountability, ZELA Media and Communications Lead Clarity Sibanda gave tips on fact checking and asked the journalists to identify corporate accountability, climate, and environment reporters to learn from and note what they were doing differently.

The mentorship program also saw the introduction of a pitch-based investigative journalism project on climate change, environmental justice, and corporate accountability, in which the best three story ideas would be supported to produce an investigative news product.

A session of feedback and action planning concluded the mentorship program, with journalists committing to:

  • Integrate climate change into their work as much as possible.
  • Put a human face on climate change stories.
  • Write follow-up stories on all climate change issues they would have published.
  • Adopt multimedia reporting practices for environmental reporting.
  • Follow environmental trends in story development.
  • Follow the money as part of their verification process.

Feedback also included the following requests from journalists:

  • A database of sources on climate change and environmental issues
  • The provision of a multi-stakeholder winter or summer school with longer periods for training on varied aspects of environmental reporting
  • The inclusion of field visits in similar mentorship programs to enable practical application of acquired knowledge
  • The inclusion of contingencies for ethical reporting standards such as child reporting that would include such cost-dense technology as animation when availing support to environmental reporters

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.