Current Date:

Wednesday, 17 January 2018
 

Sudanese Media, the Environment and Climate Change

This paper was presented in a workshop organized by UNE ( United Nations Environment)

aiming to increase Sudanese  negotiators capacity on Climate Change issues

There is no dispute in today world of the vital role of the Media in the promotion and awareness rising of the public on every public issue and this is more vital when the issue is the Environment and Climate Change which affects not only human beings but every living organism on Earth. It was said by some that we have only one planet, so we have to preserve its sustainability for the present and future generations.
But it is important at this point to distinguish between mass communication and mass media.
Both mass communication and mass media are generally considered synonymous for the sake of convenience. The Media through which messages are being transmitted include radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, films, records, tape recorders, video cassette recorders, internet, etc. and require large organizations and electronic devices to put across the message.
Mass Communication is a special kind of communication in which the nature of the audience and the feedback is different from that of Interpersonal communication. Mass communication can also be defined as ‘a process whereby mass produced messages are transmitted to large, an ominous and heterogeneous masses of receivers’. By ‘mass produced’ we mean putting the content or message of mass communication in a form suitable to be distributed to large masses of people.‘ Heterogeneous’ means that the individual members of the mass are from a wide variety of classes of the society. ‘Anonymous’ means the individuals in the mass do not know each other.
The source or sender of message in mass communication does not know the individual members of the mass. Also the receivers in mass communication are physically separated from each other and share no physical proximity. Finally, the individual members forming a mass are not united. They have no social organization and no customs and traditions, no established sets of rules, no structure or status role and no established leadership.
The source or sender of message in mass communication does not know the individual members of the mass. Also the receivers in mass communication are physically separated from each other and share no physical proximity. Finally, the Individual members forming a mass are not united. They have no social organization and no customs and tradition s, no established sets of rules, no structure or status role and no established leadership.

Features of mass communication

*Large audience
*Fairly undifferentiated audience composition
*Some form of message reproduction
*Rapid distribution and delivery
* Low cost to the consumers

Defining Mass Media

According to Wilbur Schramm ‘a mass medium is definition, let us know that there is a well-organized system behind each mass medium. For example, a newspaper is produced everyday with the collective efforts of a lot of people using various information sources ranging from local reporters to international news agencies. Same is the case of distribution of the newspaper also. Everybody from circulation manager to local newspaper boy is actively engaged in smooth circulation of each copy of a newspaper. Moreover, every county has its own policy, laws, and telecommunication systems to facilitate mass media. In this sense, the production of a mass medium is the result of a well-organized system.
And, the messages are disseminated to a large number of people in mass.
They are called the audience. No media can sustain without a sufficient audience. We learned the characteristics of mass audience in the earlier unit. The definition again talks about devices of circulating messages. These devices are technological means through which messages are communicated to the audience. Devices include printed documents, television, radio, DVD, cassettes, the Internet, etc.

Types of Mass Communication
Mass media can be categorized according to physical form, technology involved, nature of the communication process etc. Given below are the major categories of mass media.

Print Media

Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable metallic type in the fifteenth century paved the way for proliferation of the print media. The printing press using moveable types introduced the method for mass production of texts. Before the invention of the printing press, books were expensive materials affordable only for the aristocrats and royal families. Printing reduced the cost of books and made them available to the common men also. Rapid duplication of multiple copies of handy texts led to the innovation of modern newspapers.
Print Media include; Newspapers, Magazines, Books, Other textual documents and Electronic Media
The history of electronic mass media starts with the invention of radio by Marconi. The first radio station was set up in Pittsburg, New York and Chicago in the 1920s. Following the USA, European countries also started radio stations for broadcasting news and entertainment content. The colonial powers like Briton and France set radio stations in Asian and African countries in the early years of 20th century. The next step in electronic communication media history was the invention of cinema. Following cinema, television broadcasting was initiated in the US on experimental basis during 1920s. But, the dramatic impact of television as a mass medium began in 1950s. Parallel to these, recording industry was also boomed in the western countries. In short, the term electronic media mainly include: Radio, Movies, and Television, Audio and Video records.

Sudanese Media

Sudanese media has a long history in focusing and promoting the environment from different angles by competing negative social practices and promoting positive ones. But naturally not up to today standards and concepts as well as the global awareness due to the ICT (Information Communication Technologies) that have been accumulated during the last decades have tremendously changed the landscape of public awareness.
The newspapers and the radio played for a long time the leading role in awareness rising on all social issues including the environment although not coined by this name at the start. Nationally, some Radio (Omdurman) programs had a wide variety of listeners across the country and so impacted positive social behavior on many issues. We should note that now for 12 consecutive year the Radio have a weekly environment program.
Some newspaper like Al Ayam used to publish a weekly page in cooperation with the SECS (Sudanese Environment Conservation Society) but after some years for various reasons this attempt stopped. Others do publish pages on the environment from time to time on special occasions but seldom on regular bases.  
Also, before Independence and for some years after that, the Ministry of Information had a Moving Cinema Dept. which roomed the rural areas showing films that were for interment as well as awareness rising in many issues. This is an experience that the prominent Sudanese media expert Prof. Ali Shummo have called many times for its revival after been developed and equipped with modern day technology  because it is a very influential tool when targeting rural areas.

Later off course came the TV followed in the recent decades by all forms of modern ICT which have affected Sudan like the rest of the world.
In the last few decades , the Media played an important role in the promotion of environmental issues and this is particularly the case in the printed media while the role of the Radio and TV have declined for various reasons; political, economic  , technical, etc. Omdurman Radio have now only one weekly program on the environment.

COPs Coverage

Also, We should not forget the role of the academia in drawing the media attention to the importance of environmental issues like the Environmentalist Society for example which included two media representatives in their working group for Durban COP in South Africa, one from the north (the writer) and the other from south Sudan (Alfred Taban) who participated actively in the preparation of the Sudan Alternative report . The same practice was once again made in the preparation for Rio-20 Summit by the National Civic Forum and in which I participated as one of the representative of the media in preparing the Alternative Report to the Summit.
But those was rare cases because in  most cases, the media focused on  news reporting on environmental disasters  resulting from medical waste, industrial waste, water pollution, bad households waste managements, etc. Mostly these reports lacked in-depth analysis of the root causes of the problem and if any solutions have been offered by those involved or affected are practical.
Same time, the environment is not a priority in most of the editorial management agenda of all the different media outlets in the country. This is due to the high rate of dominance of political issues in the media, basically because of the political environment but also because of the lack of a futuristic vision in the editorial management to connect the dots that is, how environmental degradation can negatively impact the political situation and even national security as the model of Darfur and Kordofan show after the 2008 famous drought. And this is a defect in vision actually goes far beyond the media boundaries.
There is also due to the poor or lack of knowledge among young journalists about environmental issues in general and climate change in particular who prefer under the pressure of their daily work  load  not go to in-depth reporting which will take  time and may be even some resources which they lack.
One of the most prominent negative feature in the Sudanese media of all types is that there is no follow up on most news stories if not directly political or economic.
In addition , most of the UN Agencies and other international and regional institutions have not been of much help in this respect and their relations with the media is limited to covering events or posting press releases.
Most of the training workshops organized by these institutions didn’t have a great impact on the performance of the journalists due to the selection criteria for these workshops which is mostly plugged by favoritism and not on the basis of competence.
Also, awarding a national prize annually for the best coverage of an environmental issue may be a good incentive for journalist to exert more effort and produce good quality work.
May be also, another good step that can be taken in the future after the COP23, is to formulate a program for journalist to give them a real good idea about the Paris 2015 Climate Change Agreement , the outcome of COP 22 and COP 23  as well as the links between these outcomes and the SDGs. It is also important to inform them who each of these events is a step in the long journey of environmental suitability starting from the Earth Summit of 1992 and up to now.

The Way Forward

Addressing these challenges will take time because of been multidimensional. But each institution can take a small step which can lead at the end to some improvement.
There is no dispute that journalists in Sudan needs program designed to increase their knowledge first and then the capacity to report on environmental issues.
But such a step must start by a survey of who are actually the journalist who are committed to report on a sustainable base on environmental issues.
There is also the need of some kind of logistic support because the economic conditions in most cases makes benefiting from the ICT a very hard challenge.
There is also the challenge of the language barrier and this makes most Sudanese journalists ignorant about the basic documents in the development of the environmental governance frameworks. There is a need to provide them with simplified references and some of the historical stations in this long journey in Arabic.
For example, some of the presentations made in the last UNE on Training on Negotiation on the Paris Agreement, can be translated in full to Arabic and can be a good starting base for many young journalist.
Also, awarding a national prize annually for the best coverage of an environmental issue may be a good incentive for journalist to exert more effort and produce good quality work.
May be also, another good step that can be taken in the future after the COP23, is to formulate a program for journalist to give them a real good idea about the Paris 2015 Climate Change Agreement , the outcome of COP 22 and COP 23  as well as the links between these outcomes and the SDGs. It is also important to inform them who each of these events is a step in the long journey of environmental suitability starting from the Earth Summit of 1992 and up to now.
Also, awarding a national prize annually for the best coverage of an environmental issue may be a good incentive for journalist to exert more effort and produce good quality work.
May be also, another good step that can be taken in the future after the COP23, is to formulate a program for journalist to give them a real good idea about the Paris 2015 Climate Change Agreement , the outcome of COP 22 and COP 23  as well as the links between these outcomes and the SDGs. It is also important to inform them who each of these events is a step in the long journey of environmental suitability starting from the Earth Summit of 1992 and up to now.
 The Social Media importance is growing but here again here is a need for training and capacity building in the designing and dissemination of the messages and the selection of the audience for each type of messages because in Sudan there are many levels of education and social environments. In this respect the experience of some NGOs national and international can be of great assistance.