Improving Coverage of Oceans and Fisheries in China and Indonesia

November 23, 2015

Journalists in China and Indonesia participated in separate events earlier this month both aimed at improving local media coverage of ocean and fisheries issues. Although each country is a key player in the global supply of seafood, marine issues are not widely covered in their mainstream media, as a new EJN report analyzing Indonesia’s coverage of these issues make clear.

Produced by Harry Surjadi and Vira Ramelan, the Indonesian report – which follows a similar study carried out in China several years ago – reveals that media organizations devote relatively few resources to ocean issues, although it has become a slightly more popular topic under the current Jokowi-led government. Coverage is generally event-driven, usually lacking science-based analysis, and when sources are quoted they are often government officials. Enterprise reporting is rare, a media content analysis of five representative Indonesian publications shows, and so are interviews with multiple stakeholders.

Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) brought together some of the country’s leading environmental journalists and other media and environmental experts to discuss the report’s findings at a conference earlier this month. Participants dissected the reasons why it is difficult for journalists to cover fisheries topics, and recommended a series of capacity-building steps that could help Indonesian media improve their media coverage, including targeted training workshops, mentoring of young reporters and small-scale grants to support individual stories.

Earlier in November, a group of Chinese journalists came together in Qingdao with EJN to cover a series of fishery-related events, including the Sustainable Seafood Forum, the 2015 China Seafood and Fisheries Expo, and the World Congress on the Oceans. There they managed to meet with a range of contacts and sources as part of an effort to produce more stories on marine topics.

Liam Li, the chief foreign affairs and business desk correspondent for Ta Kung Pao Daily, had recently produced a ground-breaking 7,000-word story on the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) treaty negotiations focused on managing Antarctic marine resources, and found the Qingdao events useful for new stories he is interested in writing about seafood supply chains. Zhang Chun of chinadialogue, meanwhile, found in talking to some fishing companies that in at least one case it was subsidies provided by the state that kept them going out to sea.

These events and reports follow up on earlier activities, including the production of a fisheries journalism toolkit entitled Covering the Seas and written by noted author Paul Greenberg. The toolkit is available in English, Chinese, Japanese and soon will be published in Indonesian.

Funding for these activities has been provided by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.