By VICKI CHALERMLAPVORABOON
Global Business Journalism reporter
Global temperatures have topped all-time records, polar ice caps are melting and extreme weather is devastating countries around the world. But most global media outlets offer little reporting on the serious threats posed by climate change, Mohammed Jalal Al Rayssi, the director general of Emirates News Agency WAM, told students at the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication on Oct. 13.
“So many people are doing their jobs [covering other subjects] and to be completely honest, we are not doing enough,” Al Rayissi told students in the Global Business Journalism program’s Multimedia Reporting and Hot Topics in the Global Economy courses.
Al Rayssi said it is the job of journalists and the media industry to shine a spotlight on the ongoing environmental problems.
“One of the things we can do as a journalist is to create the right content that people can see and become more aware of the environmental problems and issues we have,” he added.
Besides working as a journalist, Al Rayssi was also an academic and diplomat in the Middle East. His academic career started at the UAE University and Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom. Later, he went on to become the media advisor to the UAE media delegation for Egyptian bureaus and an official spokesperson for Abu Dhabi Food Patrol Authority.
The Emirates News Agency, also known by its Arabic acronym WAM, is a globally known media organization, reporting news and stories around the world. It has cooperation agreements with news agencies including Xinhua in China, Anadolu Agency in Turkey, the Indonesian News Agency ANTARA, the Kuwait News Agency, Bernama in Malaysia, the Bulgarian News Agency BTA, and the Saba News Agency in Yemen.
Al Rayssi made his comments on climate change coverage just a month before the United Arab Emirates will host the annual United Nations conference on climate change in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. He said the upcoming COP28 meeting comes at a critical time for the world, and that journalists have a responsibility to both educate the public about the situation and to persuade them of the importance of immediate action.
“It is our job as a journalist to find the truth and highlight the truth in a way that helps people understand what is going on,” he told the Tsinghua audience.
However, determining what is true on environmental issues can be a challenge. With artificial intelligence becoming more important in creation of news stories, misinformation from many posts and articles spreads like wildfire.
“We have a lot of news on the digital platform being misinformation,” Al Rayssi said. “People take this information [created by AI] as a fact. But when you look deeper and study them, you can see they are not real.”
Journalists can help solve these problems by becoming experts on climate-related issues and the language of environmental reporting.
“There are a lot of methods and terminologies that are used,” he said. “It is our job to understand and create a term for people to understand the meaning of those. This can be done by working closely with organizations and associations.”
This year’s COP28 in the UAE is an opportunity to educate audiences around the world. Exhibitions, workshops, and speakers at the conference can serve as an important part of increasing knowledge of the issues, says Al Rayssi. He also invited the students to attend the upcoming Global Media Congress, set to take place in Abu Dhabi from Nov. 14–16, which includes environmental journalism and sustainable development as key topics.
Content creation that showcases environmental best practices around the world will encourage people to take action, Al Rayssi believes.
“Solutions are very important,” he said. “If you are not part of the future, you will be a part of history.”