Bearing Witness 2016: A Fiji climate change journalism case study
In February 2016, the Fiji Islands were devastated by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, the strongest recorded tropical storm in the Southern Hemisphere. The category 5 storm with wind gusts reaching 300 kilometres an hour, left 44 people dead, 45,000 people displaced, 350,000 indirectly affected, and $650 million worth of damage (Climate Council, 2016). In March 2017, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) launched a new 10-year Strategic Plan 2017-2026, which regards climate change as a ‘deeply troubling issue for the environmental, economic, and social viability of Pacific island countries and territories’. In November, Fiji will co-host the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) climate change conference in Bonn, Germany. Against this background, the Pacific Media Centre despatched two neophyte journalists to Fiji for a two-week field trip in April 2016 on a ‘bearing witness’ journalism experiential assignment to work in collaboration with the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD) and the Regional Journalism Programme at the University of the South Pacific. This article is a case study assessing this climate change journalism project and arguing for the initiative to be funded for a multiple-year period in future and to cover additional Pacific countries, especially those so-called ‘frontline’ climate change states.
Aumua, T. J. (2015). Profile >> TJ Aumua. Pacific Media Centre Online. Retrieved from http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/profile/tj-aumua
Aumua, TJ. (2016a, April 21). Poisonous starfish threatens survival of Pacific coral reefs [Video file]. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/04/21/poisonous-starfish-threatens-survival-of-pacific-coral-reefs/
Aumua, TJ. (2016b, April 21). Pacific youth face uncertain future over climate change [Video file]. http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/04/21/pacific-youth-face-uncertain-future-over-climate-change-says-leader/
Aumua, TJ. (2016c, April 26). Pacific crop centre develops food strategies for climate change. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/04/26/pacific-crop-centre-develops-food-strategies-for-climate-change/
Aumua, TJ, (2016d, April 26). Researchers explore Pacific Ocean’s hidden deep ‘secrets’. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/04/26/researchers-explore-pacific-oceans-hidden-deep-secrets/
Bacon, W. (2012). An innovative direction in academic journalism. Pacific Journalism Review, 18(2), 153-165. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;res=IELHSS;dn=853454224278683
Boykoff, M. T. (2011). Who speaks for the climate? Making sense of media reporting on climate change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Climate Council. (2016, February 26). Was cyclone Winston influenced by climate change? ClimateCouncil.org. Retrieved from https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/cyclone-winston-and-climate-change
Collectif Argos. (2010). Climate refugees. Introductions by Hubert Reeves and Jean Jouzel. Boston: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
COP23 president Bainimarama to ‘reach out’ to Trump over climate. (2017, February 9). Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2017/02/09/cop23-president-bainimarama-to-reach-out-to-trump-over-climate/
Cottle, S. (2009). Preface: Global crises and the media. In Boyce, T., & Lewis, J., Climate change and the media. Oxford: Peter Lang.
Cox, G. (1985). Bearing witness: Quaker process and a culture of peace. Pendle Hill Pamphlet #262. Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill.
Das, J., Bacon, W, & Zaman, A. (2009). Covering the environmental issues and global in delta land: a study of three newspapers. Pacific Journalism Review, 15(2), 10-33. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;res=IELHSS;dn=300351531515081
Dhabuwala, A. (2016a). Profile >> Ami Dhabuwala. Retrieved from http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/profile/ami-dhabuwala
Dhabuwala, A. (2016b, June 25). Gujarati migrant theatre group keeps mother tongue alive in NZ. Asia Pacific Report. http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/06/25/gujarati-migrant-theatre-group-keeps-mother-tongue-alive-in-nz/
Dhabuwala, A. (2016c, April 20), Fiji set to start clean-up project for predator starfish. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/04/20/fiji-set-to-start-clean-up-project-for-predator-starfish/
Dhabuwala, A. (2016d, April 25). Pacific example can help ‘save the world’ on climate change. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/04/25/pacific-communities-can-save-the-world-on-climate-change-says-mckibben/
Dhabuwala, A., & Aumua, TJ. (2016, April 27). Daku has a climate message for the world: ‘Tell them to believe it.’ Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/04/27/daku-has-a-climate-message-for-the-world-tell-them-to-believe-it/
Dreher, T., &, Voyer, M. (2015). Climate refugees of migrants? Contesting media frames on climate justice in the Pacific. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 9(1), 58-76. doi: 10.1080/17524032.2014.932818
Duffield, L. (2016). New Caledonia and Vanuatu: Differences defined in a student reporting venture into the Pacific. Pacific Journalism Review, 22(1), 137-151. doi: 10.24135/pjr.v22i1.17
Fiji seeks support for agenda as COP-23 president. (2016, December 2). Fijian government [Media release]. Retrieved from http://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Center/Press-Releases/FIJI-SEEKS-SUPPORT-FOR-AGENDA-AS-COP-23-PRESIDENT.aspx
Fiji to chair next year’s big UN climate meeting, COP23. (2016, November 19). Radio New Zealand International. Retrieved from http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/318452/fiji-to-chair-next-year%27s-big-un-climate-meeting,-cop-23
Hackett, R. (2016, May 12). Clarifications to article ‘Call for new media strategies for climate change journalism’. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/05/12/call-for-new-media-strategies-for-climate-change-journalism/#li-comment-1745
Hackett, R. A. (2017). Can peace journalism be transposed to climate crisis news? Pacific Journalism Review, 23(1). (Forthcoming).
Hackett, R. A., Forde S., Gunster, S., & Foxwell-Norton. (2017). Journalism and climate crisis: Public engagement, media alternatives. Abingdon, OX: Routledge.
Harris, U. S. (2014). Communicating climate change in the Pacific using a bottom-up approach. Pacific Journalism Review, 20(2), 77-95. doi: 10.24135/pjr.v20i2.167
Hutt, K. (2016, May 12). Call for new media strategies for climate change journalism. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/05/12/call-for-new-media-strategies-for-climate-change-journalism/
Ings, W. (2017). Disobedient teaching: Surviving and creating change in education. Dunedin: Otago University Press
Klein, N. (2014). This changes everything: Capitalism vs the climate. Toronto: Knopf Canada.
Lata, S., & Nunn, P. (2012). Misperceptions of climate-change risk as barriers to climate-change adaptation: A case study from the Rewa Delta, Fiji. Climatic Change, 110(1), 169-186. doi: 10.1007/s10584-011-0062-4
McKibben, B. (1989). The end of nature. New York: Random House.
McKibben, B. (2012, July 19). Global warming’s terrifying new math. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719
McKibben, B. (2016a, August 16). A world at war: We’re under attack from climate change – and our only hope is to mobilise like we did in WWII. New Republic. https://newrepublic.com/article/135684/declare-war-climate-change-mobilize-wwii
McKibben, B. (2016b, September 22). Recalculating the climate math. New Republic. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/136987/recalculating-climate-math
Muttitt, G. (2016, September 22). The sky’s limit: Why the Paris climate goals require a managed decline of fossil fuel production. The Price of Oil. Retrieved from http://priceofoil.org/2016/09/22/the-skys-limit-report/
Nash, C. (2015). Atolls in the ocean – canaries in the mine? Australian journalism contesting climate change impacts in the Pacific. Pacific Journalism Review, 21(1), 79-97. doi: 10.24135/pjr.v21i1.149
Nash, C. (2017). What is journalism? The art and politics of a rupture. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Nunn, P.D. (2009). Responding to the challenges of climate change in the Pacific Islands: Management and technological imperatives. Climate Research, 40, 211-231. doi: 10.3354/cr00806
Olausson, U. (2011). ‘We’re the ones to blame’: Citizens’ representations of climate change and the role of the media. Environmental Communication: A journal of nature and culture. 5(3), 281-299. doi: 10.1080/175240
Pacific Climate Warriors. (n.d.). 350pacific.org. Retrieved from http://350pacific.org/pacific-climate-warriors/
PACMAS (2013). Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) State of the Media and Communication Report 2013. Retrieved from http://www.pacmas.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/PACMAS-REGIONAL-REPORT_FINAL.pdf
Paris Agreement. (2015). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Retrieved from http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php
PIR Editor. (2016, November 20). Fiji to be co-chair of 2018 [sic] COP23 climate change meeting in Germany. Pacific Islands Report. Retrieved from http://www.pireport.org/articles/2016/11/20/fiji-be-co-chair-2018-cop23-climate-change-meeting-germany
Prasad, B. (2017, January 15). COP23 presidency – facing the gravity of the task for Fiji. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2017/01/15/biman-prasad-cop23-presidency-facing-the-gravity-of-the-task-for-fiji/
Robie, D. (2011). Iconic media environmental images of Oceania: Challenging corporate news for solutions. In Dreadlocks, 6/7, 25-49. Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific.
Robie. D. (2014). ‘Carbon colonialism’: Pacific environmental risk, media credibility and a deliberative perspective. Pacific Journalism Review, 20(2), pp. 59-75.
Robie, D. (2016). Bearing witness 2016: A Pacific Media Centre project. Unpublished report. Auckland: Pacific Media Centre, Auckland University of Technology.
Ryan, Y. (2010). COP15 and Pacific Island states: A collective voice on climate change. Pacific Journalism Review, 16(1), 193-203.
Shaw, I.S. (2011). ‘Human rights journalism’: A critical conceptual framework of a complementary strand of peace journalism. In Shaw, I.S., Lynch, J., & Hackett, R.A. (eds.), Expanding peace journalism: Comparative and critical approaches (pp. 96-121). Sydney: Sydney University Press.
SPREP launches new 10-year strategic plan. (2017, March 6). Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). Retrieved from http://www.sprep.org/news/sprep-launches-new-10-year-strategic-plan
SPREP Strategic Plan 2011-2015. (2011). Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). Retrieved from
SPREP Strategic Plan 2017-2026. (2017). Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). Retrieved from https://www.sprep.org/attachments/Publications/Corporate_Documents/strategic-plan-2017-2026.pdf
UNDP Sustainable Development Goals. (2012). United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Retrieved from
Yeo, D. (2016, June 26). Fiji assignment enlightens aspiring climate change journalists. Asia Pacific Report. Retrieved from http://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/06/26/fiji-assignment-enlightens-aspiring-climate-change-journalists/
Bearing Witness Project Reports http://asiapacificreport.nz/category/climate/bearing-witness/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors submitting articles for publication warrant that the work is not an infringement of any existing copyright and will indemnify the publisher against any breach of such warranty. By publishing in Pacific Journalism Review, the author(s) agree to the dissemination of their work through Pacific Journalism Review and on the PJR databases.
By publishing in Pacific Journalism Review, the authors grant the Journal a Creative Commons nonexclusive worldwide license for electronic dissemination of the article via the internet, and, a nonexclusive right to license others to reproduce, republish, transmit, and distribute the content of the journal. The authors grant the Journal the right to transfer content (without changing it), to any medium or format necessary for the purpose of preservation.
Authors agree that the Journal will not be liable for any damages, costs, or losses whatsoever arising in any circumstances from its services, including damages arising from the breakdown of technology and difficulties with access.