Environmental journalism in the Amazon: a journey to the root of socio-environmental conflict | Climate change and the media | DW | 10.01.2024
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Climate change and the media

Environmental journalism in the Amazon: a journey to the root of socio-environmental conflict

Between 2020 and 2022, DW Akademie, together with its local partners, promoted trainings and media productions around the socio-environmental conflicts affecting countries in the Amazon basin.

According to Colombian journalist Sara Zuluaga, "We have data on the Amazon, but human stories are missing." With extensive experience covering the region, Sara’s understanding is clear: "We want to transmit how important the Amazon is for the world, but we forget to tell the fundamental, the stories that humanize environmental conflicts." 

Journalistin Sara Zuluaga

Sara Zuluaga and her colleagues went deep into the Colombian Amazon for their research

Together with fellow journalist Mariana Guerrero and illustrator Natalia Pedraza, Sara illustrated her observation in the report Women and Plants, writing a story about traditional Amazonian medicine. It is, she noted, one of those stories that are so badly needed. Published in the third edition of Historias en Clave Verde (Stories in Green Key), a compilation of journalistic works based on trainings carried out by Consejo de Redacción (CdR) and with support by DW Akademie, the work aims to spotlight socio-environmental issues affecting Colombian Amazon communities. 

Data and security: keys to quality journalism 

When the team set out to report on the impact of Amazonian degradation and how this affects access to medicinal plants that locals use as remedies, they found a serious lack of current data. 

"In the word of mouth of the community it was known that the jungle was being deforested, but the data did not correspond to what was being told," said Sara. To fill this gap, Consejo de Redacción provided the journalists with a fact-checking expert. "She was key, because she knew exactly how to get to the data." 

In addition, working under the umbrella of this collaborative initiative provided Sara and her colleagues with an unprecedented level of security. "It was spectacular to feel so protected. It made our work so much easier because it allowed us to focus on the research," she said. 

Tierra de Resistentes: Documenting organized threats against environmental activists

Collaborative journalism to protect the Amazon 

Historias en Clave Verde is just one examples of collaborative environmental journalism that DW Akademie developed between 2020 and 2022, together with its Amazon basin partners CORAPE, Servindi, CRIC, Vokaribe, Hacemos Memoria and Consejo de Redacción.  

These joint projects helped boost community media reporting on climate change and environmental conflicts. This journalism establishes innovative narratives to explain the relationship between environmental conflicts, armed conflicts and human rights violations. 

Through training and editorial support provided by DW Akademie's partners, local and community communicators, as well as people from academia and social organizations, were able to develop podcasts on environmental leadership and videos on regional socio-environmental conflicts, occasionally in bilingual versions in Spanish and local languages. 

"We are at a point where we have to go a step further: journalism must allow us to try more creative or innovative approaches to environmental stories," concluded Sara, adding that her participation in the CdR training with DW Akademie expanded her enthusiasm for the cooperative work.

"As a journalist," she said, "I would like to have more spaces like this which encourage creativity." 

Between 2020 and 2022, DW Akademie supported its partners in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru (CORAPE, Servindi, CRIC, Vokaribe, Hacemos Memoria and Consejo de Redacción) in conducting trainings on environmental and climate reporting, such as those mentioned in this article, as well as the podcast series Voces Propias by Servindi and Punta de Flecha by Hacemos Memoria.   

As of 2023, so as to expand its efforts to promote independent environmental journalism with advocacy capacity, DW Akademie will continue its work in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia together with its partners CORAPE, Servindi and Agenda Propia.