Oluchi Oluigbo, AAMEI Founder and TVC's Journalist (happily holds a baby monkey at the park) while Miss Rhoda Omotoye (smiles behind)

Climate change and global warming, among others, are adversely affecting the environment. But seasoned journalists at an Eco-Journalism workshop in Lagos, have brainstormed on ways to conserve the ecosystem while fast-tracking development. Associate Editor, ABDULSALAM Mahmud, who is attending the event reports.

Keeping Nature Alive

NEWS DIGEST–The environment is a picturesque and serene habitat naturally created for human and animal dwelling. It is an abode where man also carries out his other beneficial socio-economic activities. But, it is seriously been threatened by multifarious ecological problems, seasoned eco-journalists and environmental activists, have said.

They however, recommended that concerted efforts must be made by both Government and relevant stakeholders in the environmental sector to halt the spate of degradation occasioned by unregulated and over-exploitative activities of man.

They spoke individually at the opening ceremony of the African Arts and Media Earth Initiative (AAMEI) 2008/19 Academy, holding at Lufasi Park, in Lagos State.

This year’s edition which was themed: “Development and Nature: Reporting the Connection,” was anchored by the organisation’s Founder and an award-winning environmental journalist with Television Continental (TVC), Ugochi Oluigbo, together with her co-Founder, Bunmi Obanawu.

A specie of the African spurred tortoise at the park

AAMEI, whose catchphrase is equipping influencers to amplify conversation around the ecosystem, uses art, entertainment as well as the traditional and new media to explore and create environmental conversations about the changing ecosystem.

The organisation also trains, supports and equip environmental journalists, artists and social influencers in different sectors with tools and knowledge.

Mr. Michael Simire, who opened the floodgate of discussions, listed climate change, water and sanitation issues, marine and coastal management, agriculture and biosafety, nature conservation together with urban development, as areas of global environmental concern.

Simire, the Editor-in-Chief of Environews, while speaking on “The Mandates of Environmental Journalists,” advised eco-journalists to write factual, objective and balanced stories, documentaries and feature articles on the impacts of deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, greenhouse emissions, gas flaring, and oil spillage, among other activities that are ravaging Nigeria’s ecosystem.

While the Editor of African News Network (ANN), Tunde Osho, in his extempore lecture on “Era of Fake News: Maintaining the standard,” cautioned young reporters against disseminating fake, malicious and totally inaccurate news.

He urged them to go the extra-mile to verify any piece of information they receive, saying “they should be fact-checkers who distill inconvertible facts from blatant falsehood in any information.”

Lufasi Park’s Founder, Mr. Majekodunmi during his presentation

The ANN Boss, added that “though fake news looks so juicy and ‘unbelievably true’ on the face value, journalists who are peddlers of rumours and outright lies risk tarnishing their good reputation, and professional integrity.”

Jennifer Igwe, an award-winning journalist, highlighted the significance of having a human-angle perspective to reports on environmental issues, asking funnily: “Any environmental journalist who is not adventurous, is that one a journalist?”

She noted that been adventurous helps journalists to quickly identify ‘unique and beautiful’ angles to write reports, urging the participants to read widely so as to broaden their horizon.

The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) news anchor, in her “Identifying the Stories” discussion, added: “It is imperative that you relate cordially with environmental activists, and experts in the field. This will enable one to know more about topical environmental issues and the effective solutions to address them. Environmental activists are change-advocates, hence they should be fair, accurate, balanced and objective in their reportage. They should verify information from credible and reliable sources. More importantly, they should be more concerned about writing impact-making stories on environmental problems.”

Why do you need investigative journalism? Mr. Fisayo Soyombo, the Managing Editor of Sahara Reporters, said it is to uncover shocking and ‘powerful’ evidence(s) about negative ills, mysterious events, and controversial issues in the society.

Soyombo, an Opinion Editorial (Op-ed) contributor for Al-Jazeera, drew a distinction between undercover and investigative journalism, saying “undercover journalism reports are also investigative journalism reports. But not all investigative reports are undercover in nature.”

On the hazard of media investigation, he said reporters who write stories to expose acts of corruption by government officials risked been murdered, harassed, or assaulted physically, to mention a few.

“As an investigative reporter, you must have plan B and C in case the main strategy you adopted for doing an investigation fails or you run into a trouble,” noted Soyombo.

The artificially built Lake Nora

Another discussant, Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi, pointed out that human beings, their exploitative tendency and harmful activities, is the chief reason why many species of plants and animals have gone into extinction across the world.

The Founder of Lufasi Park, disclosed that about 12 million tonnes of waste plastics are deposited into seas and oceans by rainfall, flooding and erosion. A situation, he maintained, causes severe plastic pollution.

“It is heartwarming that prominent world leaders have also lent their influential voices to the campaign on tackling climate change. Prince Charles of Wales stated at a previous UN General Assembly gathering that tackling global warming is the greatest challenge facing the world today. While Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest, said that climate change is a terrible problem, and it absolutely needs to be solved. It deserves to be a huge priority,” the fairly-complexioned Majekodunmi said.

The art of wildlife photography, according to Dr. Babajide Agboola, is more than meets the eyes. But wildlife, he said, simply refers to undomesticated species of flora and fauna, advocating for what he called ‘Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CSR)’.

He however, expressed dismay that some financial and other profit-making institutions that use animals such as elephant, eagle, lion, birds and many others, as part of their logo, have done little or nothing about conserving the endangered animals’ species

Agboola, a conservation ecologist and wildlife photographer, emphasized the need for photojournalists to carry out diligent research to know the aggressive features of various species in wildlife habitats so as not to get harmed in the course of their job.

He added: “Always observe and carefully track animals or the subjects you intend to give shots. Then be wary of animals’ threat zones. You must also be patient while trying to get the favourite shots you wish to take of wildlife animals. Among other things, know the techniques of photography and master your camera very well.”

Welcoming the participants earlier, Mrs. Oluigbo, underscored the importance of forging a symbiotic relationship between nature and development, through robust environmental activism and media advocacy.

She tasked them to champion the course of a safer, uncontaminated and healthier global environment through writing stories, investigative reports, features and articles about poisonous activities that are endangering the ecosystem, for Government and policymakers’ intervention.

The participants also watched a power-point documentary video on the effects of oil spillage at Ogoniland and other areas in the Niger Delta region, showcasing how aquatic life, together with fertile soils were poisoned by devastating spills.

Highpoint of the opening-day ceremony was a tour to various facilities at the 20 hectares Park to catch a glimpse of animals and plants at the donkeys’ stable, monkeys’ cage, fern garden, the helmeted guinea fowls, ducks, rabbits and goats enclosures, anthill, the African spurred tortoise, civet (a cat-like animal), the Park’s Village, Forest Bathing area and Lake Nora and Moses (two artificial water bodies).

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