It’s time for Malawi’s Environmental Journalism to thrive

Mathews Malata
Association of Environmental Journalists

The quality, the depth and strength of the stories in this dossier shows the seriousness, passion and dedication my fellow journalists have for environmental journalism in Malawi.

Investigative journalism can be tiring and life-threatening. It requires a lot of patience and perseverance. In the testimonies, I saw acts of bravery and integrity from the journalists. And it was so clear to me that my esteemed members of the Fourth Estate willingly chose to put their lives on the line in defence of Mother Nature.

Every time I read their stories, it gives me hope that if we do this repeatedly enough, our forests will be healthy again.

Malawi’s journalism is navigating one of the most difficult decades in history – with COVID-19, media capture and inadequate resources choking the operations of most newsrooms. The media landscape is evolving fast, and gaining, maintaining or expanding media spaces for environmental issues hasn’t been easy.

It is extremely difficult for media outlets to support a journalist working on an environmental assignment, let alone an investigative piece, which is usually very expensive and time consuming compared to hard news or regular features.

However, with the coming of the Association of Environmental Journalists (AEJ) and the worsening climate crisis, environmental issues are increasingly receiving the attention they deserve, to the extent that some made it to the front pages.

During a panel discussion on charcoal-led deforestation at AEJ’s Green Media Awards in December, panelists, including Director of Forestry Dr. Clement Chilima, Assistant Director in the Department of Energy, Saidi Banda, and Dorothy Nhlema, representing civil society, all denied that the country was going through a deforestation crisis.

However, minutes later, Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources, Hon. Nancy Tembo-MP, stood up to deliver her speech: “It is a special day we celebrate and recognise excellence in communicating, reporting, and disseminating achievements, issues, and challenges in the environment, natural resources, and climate change. In fact, we are in a crisis situation.”

In her speech, she also admitted learning things she never knew about through the media and encouraged the media to keep ‘getting messages across’ and continue influencing positive behaviours and policy decisions.

AEJ’s FIJM project, supported by the Modern Cooking for Healthy Forests in Malawi (MCHF) and co-funded by USAID and the UK government, is a timely intervention that will continue to expose high levels of systematic corruption in the forestry sector.

FIJM must be a long-term project, and we need more of these investigative pieces in the media spaces. It’s time for environmental journalism to thrive in Malawi.