Author_Nejra Hasečić, Mediacentar Sarajevo
Journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina desire more frequent and higher-quality reporting on climate change
Reporting on climate change in BiH media is often reduced to the transmission of information on disasters caused by climate change, without further reporting and research on the causes that have led to it.
The media in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) do not sufficiently report on climate change topics, and most often approach them sporadically and further analysis, according to journalists who attended a climate change reporting training session last week in Sarajevo, which was organized by Mediacentar Sarajevo within the regional SMART Balkans project “Reinforcing the role of media in addressing the climate emergency”.
“I feel that we, as well as the media in BiH generally, report on climate change insufficiently. It seems to me that no one in Bosnia and Herzegovina looks into a problem thoroughly enough when it occurs, such as flood” according to Osman Mešan, journalist at Radio television Bugojno.
Mešan points out that every small community in Bosnia and Herzegovina deals with a number of issues, such as air pollution, major fluctuations in morning and afternoon temperatures, illegal logging, and others, that “leave a mark on the climate” and on which journalists should conduct more investigation.
Maja Grabovac, a journalist from Bljesak.info, has the same viewpoint and believes that the local media in Mostar mostly covers climate change while overlooking the long-standing issues of the landfill and illegal garbage dumping.
All of that, she states, is insufficient because climate change is “a global problem that needs to be pointed out much more than Bosnia and Herzegovina’s media do”. Furthermore, the newsroom’s journalists are frequently limited to reporting issues that are connected to the projects they are working on, which prevents them from spending more time on environmental and climatic issues.
“Mostly we broadcast other media, but right now we are not really writing as a media company. We don’t do research on that topic”, she says.
Similar conditions exist at the Hayat television, which, in the opinion of Elma Odobašić, editor and host of the program “Dobar Dan BiH” mostly deals with insufficiently reporting on climate change.
“The biggest effect in the public is when we deal with this topic as a result, unfortunately because when we do it preventively it goes almost unnoticed. I think the main reason for this is that our people are not sufficiently aware of the danger of climate change and the consequences that it brings”.
She believes that one of the causes of this is because Bosnian and Herzegovinian people have to deal with plenty of other issues in their daily lives and are interested in news and topics related to things like pay raises, reductions in the price of food and energy, and such.
In addition, journalists from the RTV Bugojno, Bljesak.info, and Hayat television say that in order to report on climate change in more detail, additional funding is necessary, which is something that these medias do not currently have. They believe that if it was possible, these topics could be handled considerably more effectively.
Unlike the other media mentioned, the Al Jazeera Balkans takes a more methodical approach to this topic. According to Dragan Stanimirović, a journalist at this newsroom, this media has been reporting on climate change at the local and global levels since 2011, producing its own features and documentaries, talk shows, and downloading agency stories from Reuters, AFP, AP, and Al Jazeera English.
During the period of his 25-year television career, he participated in the creation of various dialogue and field shows, discussing environmental issues caused by climate change. He says that since the beginning of this year and after switching to the Al Jazeera Balkans department for social networks (AJB Digital), he has focused more on the issues of climate change by editing, filming, and creating short documentaries for the program “Gro-plan.”
“The concept itself is not primarily ‘ecological’, but so far most of the broadcasts have talked about the problems of privatization of public goods, especially the use of water for hydropower plants, which, in combination with climate change, may in the future cause problems for the entire ecosystem and settlements along rivers in BiH”, says Stanimirović. The disappearance of native fauna in the Adriatic Sea and the issue of the Neretva River valley becoming salinized as a result of rising sea levels and hydropower developments are the topics of his upcoming two documentaries.
In Stanimirovic’s opinion, it would be beneficial to produce shows on a monthly basis that would discuss the effects of the climate crisis in our area and potential solutions, and there should be more documentaries on this topic.
Scientific journalist and researcher Jelena Kalinić believes that there is no continuous and sufficiently structured analytical media reporting on climate change in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“In general, we don’t regularly discuss climate change in this country unless something like supercell storms or floods occur. I’m afraid that certain other topics, including fairness, social justice, and corruption, that may indeed be related to climate change aren’t considered by journalists and editors. Why, for example, is the topic of deforestation—the cutting of trees and the impact that it has on climate change—important?”, asks Kalinić.
Kalinić points out the fact that these topics receive a lot more attention in American and European media. She highlights The Conversation media, where scientists from different fields, including those who study climate change, publish, as one of the excellent examples. Kalinic is of the opinion that journalists from BiH should pay more attention to these media in order to improve their understanding for climate change reporting. She recommends journalists to read reports on this topic on ClimaTracker, Atlantic Wire, and the New York Times along with The Conversation.
According to her, the main distinction between foreign and media in BiH is that there are journalists, who work for international publications like The Guardian, that specialize in particular topics, such as climate change.
“While we here are losing the sports journalism genre, they have that luxury. Each person covers every aspect. I am always behind the idea of developing genre journalism so that general journalists, who cover everything and need to know a lot about some topics, can respond quickly to a topic, may also exist. A journalist with experience in science can create a text or write an article far more quickly than someone who is unfamiliar with it. We have our own networks of scientists that we can “pull” for a statement, which allows us to respond quicker and stronger”, Kalinić notes.
Additionally, he recommends journalists reporting on climate change to keep up with the activities of the Klima 101 portal from Serbia. He emphasizes the significance of journalists reading high-quality materials about climate change on a regular basis as they can, as this can help to increase their level of scientific literacy and make it easier for them to select topics, adopt approaches, and come up with original stories. He also offers advice on how to talk about climate change from different perspectives, how to know the fundamentals of statistics, how to pay attention to domestic issues, how to choose scientists and professionals as interlocutors, and more.
Fake experts and misinformation
Reporters should use extra care while covering other topics as well as climate change due to the growing prevalence of misinformation, which is very common online. The president of the Eco Forum Association and associate professor at the University of Zenica, Samir Lemeš, draws attention to this issue.
“Journalists and the general public are exposed to a huge amount of misinformation where there are companies, investors who have huge sums of money to hide the negative impact on the climate and the environment, so it is very difficult to resist it” , adds Lemeš.
Because it is therefore easy to distinguish between those who are acting in one’s best interests and those who genuinely wish to change anything, he continues on to argue that it is essential to rely on independent and verified sources, including personal connections.
Lemeš adds that there are networks among these associations, such as Eco BiH, through which journalists can contact actual relevant organizations. Non-governmental organizations that deal with environmental protection might be a helpful source of information. Additionally, it raises concerns about the issue of fake experts appearing in the media who may negatively impact the public’s view.
“Here, everyone is referred to as a scientist. People should be careful, critical of the devaluation of academic titles, and careful about who they speak to, Lemeš warns.
False experts, according to Raskrinkavanje.ba journalist Marija Ćosić, are especially harmful when it comes to spreading misinformation about climate change.
“It often happens that those who claim to have knowledge in climatology or who have claimed to do so spread false information, giving them the appearance of credibility in the eyes of the public since they identified themselves as professors, scientists, etc. Automatically, this false information spreads more widely, and in fact, this is how it typically reaches mainstream media, particularly local tabloids keen to interview experts who would share global conspiracies”, according to Ćosić.
She claims that false information regarding climate change is spreading and that the sources of it are not specific to any one organization but rather are a part of larger conspiracy theories.
According to Ćosić, users of social networks and portals that are known for disinformation spreading are the biggest source of misinformation. She notes that the most common reason of journalist´s mistakes is because they don’t verify information, and her advice is to run a quick Google search every time before publishing an article, which “separates the media from conveying misinformation or staying on the other side of the media that did not do it” in most cases.
“Although it can be challenging to detect serious manipulations, checking information before publication is usually a quick process. Therefore, the speed that is set by the different indisputable elements of journalism is what often results in the spread of false information regarding climate change”, said Ćosić.
A list of resources for checking information is available to journalists, along with the handbook about journalism and fact-checking, they can find explanations of the tools’ functions and optimal uses.