The launch of the Bhutan Forum for Environment Journalist (BFEJ) yesterday in the capital left journalist reporting on environmental issues optimistic as the forum provides a way for them to groom their environmental reporting skills and network to share knowledge on environmental issues.
The Information and Communications (MoIC) Minister D.N Dhungyel graced the BFEJ launch and urged Bhutanese journalists covering the environmental issues to grasp the opportunities that are being offered to disseminate better information for a better environmental cause.
During the launch, reporters discussed about the widespread melting of glaciers, impact on subsistence agricultural practices, human-wildlife conflict and water resources problems due to erratic rainfall pattern reported from almost all parts of the country.
Journalists also shared their views regarding the fear that the climate change will exacerbate the existing economic, political and humanitarian stresses. In addition, they discussed the problem of water scarcity, reduced access to safe drinking water and the impact of rain-fed agriculture in the country.
According to the Executive Director of Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF), Dawa Penjor such initiative is timely as Bhutan’s popularity at the international level is growing due to its pristine environment, and also because Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world that has the constitutional provision on environment protection, conservation and promotion.
He also shared that news and other stories that were directly or indirectly attributed to environmental problems and challenges. He said that the need for journalists to specialize in environment journalism is of paramount.
“Environment problem is not a local issue, it is trans-border and global,” Dawa Penjor said. Adding that the environmental activity in the coastal areas of India has direct bearing on the farmers from Shingkhar Lauri to Samtse to Laya and Sakteng.
He said that the Bhutanese media as the informer and educator play a crucial role in providing access to better information that influence behavioral changes, mitigate conflict and support good policies that balance growth with sustainability and human rights.
Director of EARTH Journalism Network (EJN) James Fahn said, “Bhutan, though a small country, would have endured and would face with varieties of environmental issue in future.” He said that in order to mitigate, it is sensible to create such forum in Bhutan like many other countries have.
He said that EJN, towards promoting such forums, train and conduct workshops and develop training materials, support for production and distribution and dispersing small grants to empower and enable journalists from the developing countries to cover the environment more effectively.
The BFEJ is the first initiative that is being supported by BFM to contribute, as a trustee, to enhance the environmental pillar of Gross National Happiness. BMF also has plans in pipeline to collaborate with various stakeholders and institution that is a title holder in environmental issues to organize programs and to make Bhutan as a hub for environment journalists from around the world.
The launch is a collaborative approach undertaken by BMF, EJN and Third Pole to empower and enable journalists to cover environmental issues more effectively.
EJN was established in 2006 and it has more than 2,200 journalists from developing countries were trained in a wide variety of environmental issues including climate change, biodiversity, water, environment health, and oceans and coastal resources.
EJN also organizes its own Earth Journalism Award Program with over 900 journalists from 148 countries competing, and 15 journalists were awarded for producing few best environmental stories.
As of yesterday, 20 environment journalists from different media firms registered themselves as a member of BFEJ and the membership is expected to rise in the future.