Obstacles, solutions for Southeast Asia’s climate reporting

Fight for reader attention, restricted journalistic freedom and a lack of relatability

A woman is standing in front of her house which is under water due to tidal flood. Credit Supratim Bhaattacharjee

The inaugural ‘Global Climate Journalism Insights: Southeast Asia’ report, authored by global journalism initiative climateXchange (cXc), tells of a journalism landscape fraught with resource challenges, fear of reprisal and audience apathy, Wan-Ifra reports.

These insights come amid the urgent need for local engagement on climate change, information about its causes, and its impacts, many of which are being felt acutely across the region. The World Bank reported earlier this year that 13 of the 30 countries most susceptible to the effects of climate change lie within East Asia and the Pacific. Impacts include flooding, tropical storms, heatwaves and ocean acidification—and are predicted to lead to 7.5 million people falling into climate-related poverty by 2030.

Intelligence was gathered from journalists attending a thought leadership workshop organized with Wan-Ifra, the cXc hub partner in Southeast Asia and at the Digital Media Asia 2023 event. Views from newsrooms across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are represented in the publication, which cXc Impact Manager Dr Carmen Nicoara compiled.

“The standout insight from this report is the stark contrast we see in Southeast Asia—a region rich in environmental narratives, yet grappling with public disengagement,” Nicoara says. “Our task is to break this cycle of disconnection: we need a shift in storytelling. It’s become clear that for climate awareness to flourish, newsrooms in this region must come together, sharing strategies and stories“.

A flagship initiative of new nonprofit Syli, climateXchange aims to kickstart a foundational transition in journalism. Co-founders Tom Trewinnard and Fergus Bell believe this will be achieved by focusing on local content about relatable real-world causes of climate change and the global movement towards a just transition to more carbon-conscious living. 

The climateXchange team hopes that by using a global network of content producers and providing equitable access to trusted information, relatable impact and solutions will be fostered, empowering and engaging audiences at a local level.

ClimateXchange regional hubs have been established in Africa and Southeast Asia, with Europe following in early 2024. Further knowledgeXchange sessions in these key regions will form the basis of future reports. Global Climate Journalism Insights: Southeast Asia is the first piece of research from climateXchange—and highlights the need for more collaborative, relatable coverage that transcends traditional forms of media and approaches younger, more digital-literate audiences.

“We’ve identified the key challenges in the region: the need for relatable climate journalism, engaging readers in a multi-platform world, safeguarding journalistic freedom, addressing resource and knowledge gaps, and innovating funding models,” says Nicoara. “Our aim now is to foster a vibrant, collaborative environment, grounded in research. In this space, we’ll pivot between mapping and analysing regional challenges to crafting strategies that both engage audiences effectively and strengthen the capabilities of journalists.”

ClimateXchange is the lead initiative of the new CIC non-profit Syli, founded in London by Tom Trewinnard and Fergus Bell. Syli supports mission-driven journalism in service of informed audiences worldwide by fostering new and forward-looking concepts, identifying sustainable financial models for journalism, and creating a healthier, more sustainable media ecosystem. ClimateXchange has gained philanthropic support from the IKEA Foundation and the KR Foundation. 

(First published by Wan-Ifra)

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