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MEDIASCAPE: Timely Chamwada Report captured essence of UNEA-4 

Let’s talk about UNEA-4.

Rings a bell?  Here is a clue: It was a big story on some international news channels and happened the whole of last week.

Still no clue?

Here is another clue: It happened in Nairobi.

Still no clue?

Ok, no need to blush. Let’s make it easy for you (and thousands of other Kenyan journalists): UNEA-4 is the acronym for the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly.

The event took place last week in Nairobi, between March 11 and 15.

But that is stale news. The news here is that we largely did a bad job reporting it.

Granted, the tragic Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Sunday, March 10, took the thunder away from the assembly. Or perhaps it gave many of us an excuse to avoid reporting on one of the most important gatherings in the UN calendar.

Yes, we tried, but many attempts ended up full of NGO jargon and gibberish. At best, we copy pasted the UN Environment office’s press releases which sounded like lecture notes for a master’s in environmental studies.

Yes, we will forgive many journalists who filed reports from Gigiri for cursing the editors who sent them on the beat. Forgive them, for what else do they know about the environment except what our politicians say?

How were they to localise what was being discussed in the meeting to Kenya’s own rapidly unfolding environmental disaster; Turkana’s oil discovery; the proposed coal plant at the coast and the plastics ban that is quickly being ignored?

No, that was a gathering for ‘rocket scientists,’ and we are journalists for screaming out loud! Bring us something more political, something like Ruto allies said this, Uhuru allies responded that and Raila allies waded in….

We are certain, that the poor fellows who were sent to cover the UNEA-4 breathed a sigh of relief when it ended.

But wait: One coverage did capture the spirit of the assembly and aired it. That was Alex Chamwada, in his “The Chamwada Report”, featuring the Nairobi River.

The feature aired on KTN News in the course of the assembly. It traced the country’s most polluted river from its origin in the swamps of Kiambu to Korogocho slums through Industrial Area.

At each point, Chamwada tells his audience how various actors contributed to the flowing murk that is the epitome of the country’s environmental degradation.

Throwing in snippets of the river’s history – it was once swimming with trout in the 60’s before becoming polluted enough, over the years, to poison the devil today. The reporter drew the metamorphosis of an environmental disaster whose attempt to reverse has either been politicised or converted to a cash cow. Questions need to be asked here.

Chamwada must have known that the world would be watching out for stories related to the environment last week. This was clear proof that we did not have to send in wide-eyed journalist to cover UNEA-4. All we needed to do was tell (or re-tell) our own, well-researched environment stories.

This is how it should be. We host the UNEP!

Kudos Chamwada.

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