Our new research looks at the role of language in the underreporting of climate change in Pakistan.
‘I believe that the media plays an important role in agenda setting.’ says Mohsin Babbar.’ The international media for example is actively pursuing climate change, and the stories published on climate change become leading stories, be it print or electronic media. In Sindh (Pakistan) that is not the case. Stories on climate change are never the lead stories- if you do see a story on climate change it is almost always linked to an event being held by an NGO. However, like I said earlier, people are interested, people do feel the impacts and they want to know more, but there is not a lot of work in this sector.’
Mohsin Babbar is an acclaimed environmental journalist from Sindh, and one of the many journalists we interviewed for our new research paper. He, and many others, highlighted what we already knew- that climate change is desperately underreported in the Pakistani media. But is the Pakistani media landscape in Pakistan providing an environment for journalists to report on climate change- and does the fact that most reporting takes place in urdu and english have any impact on the way messages are conveyed to grassroots communities?
I have been writing about climate change for the past 3 years, sporadically, but still writing. But as a native Pashto speaker, and with urdu as my ‘national’ language, I have never spoken or written in Urdu- and I couldn’t write in Pashto even if I tried. Pashto was just not taught as a language at school. My articles are always in English, and reach a very limited audience.
We know that English is not the first language for any of Pakistan’s people. Neither is Urdu for that matter- less than 8% of the population speaks it as a first language. But most reporting takes place in these two languages. Climate change is underreported in Pakistan in general- but could the lack of reporting in local languages be impacting how climate change is communicated to communities?
Our new study on Language in Reporting on Climate Change in Pakistan looks at just that- the language diversity and media landscapes in every region of Pakistan, and conversations with environmental journalists in each region to find out the status of reporting on climate change.
Here is what we found (you may also click on each photo to download the full research paper):
Sindh was one of the few provinces we studied where Sindhi is the official language. Mohsin Babbar and Allah Bux Arisar told us about the rise of the use of social media- but also that climate change is underreported.
In Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, we found that Punjabi publications do not have an audience. Haroon Akram, an environmental journalist in the Punjab confirmed this.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the other province where Pashto is sometimes used as a medium of instruction. Even so, Urdu media dominates, according to journalists Izharullah and Fazal Rahim Awan.
In Balochistan, Pakistan’s most sparsely populated province, we spoke to Watanyar Khilji. He confirmed what our research told us- that publications in local languages are few.
We explored media landscapes in Gilgit Baltistan, and spoke to Noor Pamiri, a prominent journalist. We found that Urdu and English media dominate in GB- mostly because local languages are unwritten.
You may download the full research paper here.