Communications and the Media (Monday, 9 June 2014, 13:30 – 15:15)

Environmental Information Portals for Local Stakeholders: Lessons Learned from Different Projects in Asia
Malte AHRENS (Germany)

Not Only News, Not Only After: Problems and Suggestions for a More Effective Contribution of Media to Disaster Reduction
Ferruccio FERRIGNI (Italy)

Communication Influences on Decision-Making in Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction: Implications for RIA Framework
Kuan-Hui Elaine LIN (USA)

Promoting Science Communication: Panos Eastern Africa’s Experience
Masaba David WANALOBI (Uganda)

The Role of Newspapers in Disaster Risk Dissemination: Review from Indonesia
Ramanditya WIMBARDANA (Indonesia)


Environmental Information Portals for Local Stakeholders: Lessons Learned from Different Projects in Asia

Malte AHRENS, Verena KLINGER, Christina EISFELDER, Juliane HUTH and Claudia KÜNZER
German Aerospace Center, Remote Sensing Data Center, Munich, Germany

In the project “Water-related Information System for the sustainable Development of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam,” an internet-based information system was built to support integrated water, land and coastal resource management. The system was deployed on servers in Ho Chi Minh City and was officially handed over to Vietnamese institutions in early 2013 at the Mekong Environmental Symposium.

Based on the experiences gained during six years of work in Vietnam, the River Delta Information System is currently being adapted for stakeholders in the Yellow River Delta. In this delta, the challenge lies in finding an equilibrium between resource exploitation (oil, gas, industry, agriculture) and protection of the natural environment (wetlands, bird migration grounds). Within the context of the Sino-German DELIGHT project (Delta Information System for Geoenvironmental and Human Habitat Transition), a large group of researchers is currently working on answering applied environmental research questions from the fields of hydrology, ecology, etc., by means of intensive field work, remote sensing based change detection approaches, modelling, and socio-economic surveys. All findings will be – as maps, reports, statistics, etc. – integrated into the DELIGHT information system, which will be jointly designed with and supplied to local stakeholders in the delta.

This talk gives you the chance to see how the system looks from the users’ point of view, and how the system supports local stakeholders in their management tasks. It will give you an insight in cultural and technical challenges of implementing an online GIS system in countries like Vietnam or China. This talk also presents experiences starting from the user requirement analysis, the development process, trainings and evaluation in Vietnam, to the beginning of adapting the system for another project region.

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Not Only News, Not Only After: Problems and Suggestions for a More Effective Contribution of Media to Disaster Reduction

Ferruccio FERRIGNI
Cultural Heritage and Local Risk Culture, European University Centre for Cultural Heritage Ravello, Italy

Often news services covering little disasters (avalanche, landslide) journalists record that people on the spot knew very well the hazard, but that authorities have systematically ignored warnings and worries. But the press rules are clear: except for particular cases, people’s worries become “news” only after event.

To spread people’s fears before a disaster happens can help to prevent it? What to do so that the local knowledge of risk situations becomes “news”?

The political decision-makers tend to privilege building, which gives them notoriety (the unveiling of a new building is “news”), rather than repairing interventions (the appropriate and continuous maintenance is not “news”).

What to do to shift the public attention and the decision-makers interest to the intelligent use of what exists?

In the past, the transfer of information among populations exposed to the same risks supported the circulation and the rooting of a “local risk culture” (LRC), nearly always avoiding dangerous modifications of the territory. To centralise information in huge data banks does not stimulate a horizontal circulation of knowledge and does not foster the developing of LRC. Could media support a risk information system centre-periphery oriented? Could they assure a horizontal circulation of information? How should they cooperate, in a permanent way, with structures which are in charge of emergency preparedness?

The remarkable audience of reviews and surveys protecting consumers’ interests and the numerous cases of interventions imposed to producers thanks to media campaigns, show that media can contribute in a determinant way to turn people’s suggestions into changes in policies.

Is it realistic to think that programmes protecting land’s consumers against risk situations may be of the same interest, so that they become profitable for publishers and could be useful support to disaster reduction public actions? If media are systematically used for the circulation of information at local level they could play a determinant role even in emergency preparedness campaigns, carrying out a public service. Would publishers have audience and sales increased? Would it be necessary to provide incentives?

Analysing some experiences after Italian 1980 Irpinia earthquake, the paper proposes some answers to the above questions, demonstrating possibility for replication everywhere.

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Communication Influences on Decision-Making in Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction: Implications for RIA Framework

Kuan-Hui Elaine LIN1, Shabana KHAN2, David OLANYA3, Ryan Chelese ALANIZ4 and Lilibeth ACOSTA-MICHLIK5

  1. George Perkins Marsh Institute, Clark University, MA, USA; Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, Chinese Taipei
  2. Department of Geography, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi; University of Amsterdam, the Netherland
  3. Department of Public Administration and Management, Gulu University, Uganda
  4. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, USA
  5. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany; School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM), University of the Philippines, Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines

The Risk Interpretation and Action (RIA) conceptual framework provides a critical overview of the theories on the relationships between risk interpretation and action (Eiser et al., 2012). However, it focuses on the personal and individual mechanisms that frame the processes, rather than on the interactions among the individual and collective of levels as risks are interpreted, leading to certain decision-making and actions. This research will fill this gap by investigating a critical but dynamic element – communication and further put the discourse in the less-studied field of disaster reconstruction and resettlement. Communication, as discussed here, focuses on the dialogue among individuals, communities, organizations and governments in the reconstruction and resettlement phases after disasters. It is embedded in the broader political, social, and cultural context of the respective country or region. This research highlights interactions across social and temporal scales. It also discusses factors intervening in the processes across these scales, including how social relationships and social contract formulate the responsibility and scope of engagement, and how trust and social learning grow or change throughout the processes that (re)shape the various phases of decision making and actions at individual and collective levels and the interactions between the two. This framework is expected to be applied and tested in various socio-cultural contexts including Chinese Taipei, India, Uganda, Honduras, and the Philippines.

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Promoting Science Communication: Panos Eastern Africa’s Experience

Masaba David WANALOBI
Panos Eastern Africa, Kampala, Uganda

Information is a right and a tool for sustainable development. For citizens to become involved in risk reduction activities they need information that will empower them to engage from an informed perspective. The media plays a critical role in this endeavour. The mass reach of the media can be used to reduce this information gap, raise necessary debate to influence attitudes, debate solutions and create the political pressure needed for action.
Sources of information, however, often do not see communication as a critical part of their work. Scientists, for example, find glory in writing for scholarly publications, which spend shelf life confined in research institutions. Mutual mistrust between the media and scientists needs to be broken to allow scientists to leave their “ivory towers” and engage in the public communication of science. Who is the science for if it is not the public? The media, on the other hand, should reassure scientists that it is credible in handling scientific information. It is a question of developing relationships and networks that will lead to more information flowing to the public domain.

Panos Eastern Africa, a media development organisation, has conducted innovative workshops that are intended to break these barriers between scientists and the media. During two- to three-day workshops scientists are introduced to media routines that determine what is covered. Journalists get the opportunity to discuss challenges they find in accessing scientific information. Scientists also discuss what intricacies of releasing information, and their fears and suspicions in dealing with the media. It is a confidence-building forum.

Panos employs various methodologies: joint field work and writing of a story, visits to media houses, and on-camera interviews on recent scientific work to give both scientists and journalist’s the opportunity to critique their performance in communicating science. Fellowship opportunities are provided to selected journalists to investigate scientific-related issues and build on networks formed.

Scientists who have participated in these fora testify that journalists are not merely interested in sensational reporting, but they are professional, and can understand scientific information if well packaged. Journalists on the other hand appreciate the challenges scientists face in communicating.

Panos Eastern Africa has developed a media handbook for scientists to strengthen this process, so that scientists and journalists need not be strange bedfellows.

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The Role of Newspapers in Disaster Risk Dissemination: Review from Indonesia

Ramanditya WIMBARDANA1 and Saut SAGALA2

  1. Resilience Development Initiative, Bandung, Indonesia
  2. School of Architecture, Planning, and Policy Development, Institute of Technology Bandung, Bandung, Indonesia

Communication is central to disseminate information for public disaster education, early warning, and post-disaster recovery. Mass media has been particularly recognised as a communication tool and resource information to shape and influence public opinion about current and particular public issues. In the disaster management context, media should be a source of information that may shape people’s behaviour in order to reduce the risk before and after the key events of a disaster. Taking Indonesian major newspapers’ perspective as a case study, this paper aims to identify current mass media role and its driven factors to disseminate disaster risk issues to the public in Indonesia. This research conducted content analysis approach to assess information related to disaster dissemination in newspapers for the past five years (2008-2013). The year of 2008 was used as a research since it was when the disaster paradigm shifted from disaster response to disaster risk reduction approach nationally, which was enforced by the National Law on Disaster Management. Additional data for the analysis is obtained from several interviews conducted with chief editor and journalists of the newspapers. Our findings show that Indonesian newspapers’ roles in disseminating disaster risk has been mainly during emergency response. During the emergency period, the media tend to amplify the disaster events rather than providing systematic approach to reduce the risks. In post disaster period, media have contributed in highlighting recovery process and problem experienced by communities and government. However, in disaster risk reduction and increasing people awareness and preparedness, Indonesian newspapers’ role is still limited. This paper found that the main reason is due to the media puts more emphasis on commercial business. This is where there is an opportunity to shape a partnership between government, media, and academic institutions so that the media can play a role in increasing disaster awareness. Another important role is the media can be a government’s watchdog to make sure disaster risk reduction measures are in place.

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