Climate Change Journalism in Bangladesh. Professional Norms and Attention in Newspaper Coverage of Climate Change
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Generally, journalistic issue attention is shaped by the importance of the issue to the target audience and professional norms attached to the issue are supplied by journalists’ understanding of the issue derived from social context and professional culture. However, social, political, cultural and institutional factors also influence the level of media attention of a certain issue. This thesis examines the climate change issue attention by looking at the content in the coverage of two mainstream Bangladeshi newspapers The Prothom Alo and The Daily Star and their articles published during global climate summits, i.e. conferences of parties (COPs) held in 2007 in Bali, 2009 in Copenhagen, 2011 in Durban and 2013 in Warsaw. More specifically, this thesis explores how Bangladeshi newspaper journalism on climate change takes shape during the global climate negotiations at the summits. Furthermore, journalistic domestication of the issue and negotiation of journalistic norms and values are analyzed in connection to the COP coverage with particular focus on the content of climate justice, advocacy for ensuring climate justice and development journalism. In doing so, this thesis discusses how two important newspapers in Bangladesh exercise climate change journalism and how they relate to the professional norms.
The exploration of these issues have been helped by triangulation of research methods such as content analysis, framing analysis, close reading and textual analysis, in-depth interviews and field observation while the analyses were further developed by the use of issue attention cycle, climate justice, advocacy and development journalism as theoretical concepts.
The study finds that Bangladeshi newspapers coverage fluctuates and hence follow Downs’ (1972) issue attention cycle. It demonstrates how climate change coverage during the COPs was influenced by the other competing news issues in Bangladesh.
My study of the framing of climate justice over the period, finds that Bangladeshi newspapers pursue climate justice consistently through their coverage, but arguably debated whether to follow the principles of historical responsibility. Although climate justice operates at different levels and in several layers, its framing in Bangladeshi newspapers is limited in typology and seemed mainly to reflect on compensatory and distributive justice. Framing of procedural and corrective justice were less salient. Climate justice with more specific focus, such as the gap between rich and poor within the country and climate justice for other species is hardly evident in the framing.
With regard to the practice of development journalism, the study finds that the coverage contained the angles of pro-process, pro-participation and pro-government dimensions of development. Bangladeshi newspapers seem more interested about summit reporting of the hard facts and aspects rather than connecting the dots between summits and development issues, and thereby end up covering more events than processes.
The study of norms, including advocacy, also finds that newspapers in Bangladesh tend to advocate for climate justice through their coverage. Furthermore, newspapers extend their cooperation for advocacy of climate justice by promoting and supporting movements organized by civil society and grass roots organizations. The use of advocacy journalism in Bangladeshi newspapers about climate change issues goes beyond the existing models and offers an extension to present theorizing integrating advocacy done by journalists, civil societies and governments for ensuring climate justice.
A study of how future is imagined in Bangladeshi climate change coverage in contrast with Finnish newspapers finds that the newspapers in Bangladesh and Finland tend to situate voices into different ‘time-zones’ in their coverage with respect to the future orientation of climate change. In the coverage of the respective countries, Bangladesh is reflected as fighting for its future while Finland is portrayed as sympathetic spectator as bystander. The most common way of approaching futures in both countries is through references to emission reduction targets discussed in the negotiations. Climate funding was sometimes used as the currency in describing futures. This type of funding narrative was more prominent in the Bangladeshi newspaper coverage but appeared sporadically in the Finnish coverage as well. The role of Bangladesh in the negotiations, the difference between ‘rich’ and ‘climate-hit’ countries, and the possible consequences of climate change was all highlighted in Bangladeshi newspapers connecting them with present day realities as if for Bangladesh future is now while the Finnish coverage reflected a gradualist approach to climate change.
The thesis concludes that climate change has contributed to domestication of journalistic norms that have substantially underlined advocacy and development journalism as existing genres in Bangladeshi journalistic professional practice.