World Federation of
Science Journalists

Editor brings the Arctic to the Arab World

March 9, 2009 posted in Sci.Journalism
The last journalist to join the Amundsen research icebreaker expedition in the Canadian Arctic in the summer of 2008 has been blanketing the Arab world with climate change coverage ever since her return home to Lebanon.

Raghida Haddad, a magazine editor from Beirut, was part of a WFSJ project to put journalists up close to climate-change science where it was actually happening.

Since her return to her home and her job as executive editor of Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia (“Environment and Development”) magazine in Beirut, Haddad has been working to close the knowledge gap between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arctic Ocean. This kind of science, she says, “is seriously under-reported” in her part of the world.

Not because Haddad isn’t trying. Months of constant reporting after the event, she has a new cover article about her Arctic adventure in the February issue of Al-Nour (“The Light”), a religious magazine widely read in Lebanon and Syria. Along the way, she has been interviewed by TV and radio stations about the journey and her reflections on it.

Photo credit for the iceberg image is Igor Lehnherr

The headline on Haddad's article in Al-Nour reads "Journey to the Arctic"

Predictably enough, one of her Amundsen articles was the Arabic-language cover story in her own magazine’s September 2008 issue. It was republished almost immediately by Al-Hayat International newspaper and then by dozens of Arab media online and in print.

She also wrote about the journey in the form of a diary published as a full-page spread in Beirut’s English-language Daily Star newspaper in the fall of 2008. It too was republished by print and online media around the world.

She has lectured to high schools and NGOs, presented a workshop for the Middle East Center for the Transfer of Appropriate Technology and the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water resources. In March she is scheduled for a presentation and roundtable discussion at the Lebanese Ministry of Administrative Development.

So it’s fair to say her reporting has had considerable reach in a part of the world where, in Haddad’s words, “climate change news is published, but there rarely is a regional dimension to such coverage.”

Raghida Haddad
She has data to back up her opinion. Her magazine surveyed media in all 22 Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa and concluded that only 10 per cent have a reporter or editor for environment and sustainable development. Only 10 per cent have a regular (weekly) environment page or space dedicated to environmental issues.

Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia, published monthly, is the only environment magazine in Arabic that can be found on newsstands throughout the Arab region. “That’s why it’s the primary environmental news source in the region,” Haddad says.

She says the 22 countries of the Arab region are “starting to suffer the impacts of climate change, especially longer droughts, desertification, loss of ecosystems and habitats, coastal degradation and coral bleaching.

“There are 18,000 kilometres of inhabited Arab coasts, all prone to sea-level rise due to sea water expansion and melting ice. That’s why we emphasize climate change topics in each issue of our magazine. And that’s why I wanted to join the expedition aboard the Amundsen, to get first-hand experience of global warming where it is unfolding the fastest, and to relay this experience to our readers throughout the Arab region.

“My Arctic journey was a rare life experience. I still can’t believe seeing an iceless Arctic Ocean. What I would wish to do now, next to visiting Antarctica, is revisiting the Arctic in winter and witnessing climate research on sea ice.”


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