1. MEDIA ADVOCACY
Media As A Tool For The Realization Of Environmental Justice And Socio Economic Rights In Kenya.
Since 2009 CJGEA had run an advocacy campaign for the Owino Uhuru community that had been exposed to toxic heavy metal poisoning from a government licensed smelter. We noted over the years that whenever we did a public picketing demonstration and it was covered by media, the duty bearers through the then ministry of public health (Now ministry of health) and the National Environmental Management Authority would rush to close the smelter only for it to reopen a week or two after. This happened from 2009 until 2013. We aimed to leverage on media engagements but also to build media capacity and to ensure responsible media engagement for stronger advocacy. Our campaign experiences had taught us that media was one of the most efficient and trusted sources for disseminating information. It contributes to swaying public opinion and is the main source of information for Kenyan public. If utilized correctly it has potential to increase public involvement in protecting the environment and socioeconomic rights. We set out to ensure that the media was empowered with tools to prioritize, disseminate and arouse the awareness on the CJGEA work especially the Owino Uhuru lead poisoning case, the subsequent litigation and other cases of environmental Impunity in Kenya. We needed to get the media not to only focus on our demonstrations but to understand the socio economic impacts of violations to the right to a clean healthy and sustainable environment that we were advocating for and see the suffering of the community, thus the project “Media As A Tool For The Realization Of Environmental Justice And Socio Economic Rights In Kenya”. To effectively run the project, CJGEA increased its own capacity to handle the media project by bringing on board a media and communications officer who run the organizations social media accounts and other media engagements. We run a media fellowship where we built the capacity of the media to understand the concept of business and the environment, business and Human rights and the environment and health. CJGEA aimed to empower the media to engage;
(i) The Capital Holders (corporates in business and development)
(ii) The Rights Holders ( The communities that host the development projects)
(iii) The Duty Bearers (The state and all state agencies)
They learnt about the treaties and laws in place to protect communities and rights and using the Owino Uhuru case study we were able to identify how many
rights and laws had been violated. The media response was overwhelming leading to the coverage of the Owino Uhuru story that trended on twitter for a week in
Kenya. As a result, the government swung to action and quickly moved to step into the situation. Among the topics covered in the media fellowship included: -
1. Key concepts and the bill of Rights
2. Environment and human rights
3. Environmental Justice
4. Monitoring environmental Rights and documentation
5. Role of the media in protecting communities
The program was developed to build the capacity of the media and media practitioners to understand the place of media in environmental advocacy and the linkages between Human rights and the environment. CJGEA targeted Standard Media Group, Radio Kaya, The People, Sunday Express, The Star, Al Jazeera, Nation and BBC Africa media houses.
Challenges experienced by the participants were: -
1. Corruption; many sectors that are involved in the protection of human rights and environment are bribed by the companies who pollute the environment.
2. Ignorance by the public; many people do not know their rights and the constitution unless they are helped by the civil society.
3. Lack of avenue to disseminate information by the public; in most cases the communities suffer in silence as they do not know who to turn to.
4. Lack of resources channeled towards media research
(i) The civil society should invest in lobbying media stakeholders to invest in environmental research. And they should not use the media as a tool for publicity but as a tool to tackle environmental issues that affect the communities.
(ii) For the media to take responsibility in investigating, writing and airing issues about environmental injustices.
It was concluded that each one of us has a responsibility to fulfill in the protection of our environment. The government has a commitment to ensure that its citizens leave in a healthier environment as enshrined in Article 69(1) (f) “the state shall establish systems of environmental impact assessment, environmental audit and monitoring of the environment” of the Kenyan Constitution. Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are one of the most well-known tools for assessing the impacts of developments projects on the environment. The government has a responsibility to ensure that independent environmental impact assessments, with human rights dimensions, are carried out prior to the commencement of any extractive and pollution activities. And it should continue to carry out ongoing monitoring of environmental and health impacts and ensure that the company complies with the national and international standards and norms. The role of the community is to participate in environmental impact assessments and audits so that they can state their concerns about the impact of the proposed projects early in order to provide the government an opportunity to address such issues during their decision making process, so that they can reflect such comments in their EIA approvals or rejections. The role of the media is to raise ecological awareness through informing the public about the current normative-legal frame work and its improvements with the help of the civil society so as to attract public attention to pressing ecological issues.
CJGEA's Media advocacy led to the production of 2 exposes:-
(i) Plague for Profit
(ii) Futari ya SUMU
2. SENATE REPORT
Senator Emma Mbura took up the case of Owinouhuru after our media advocacy after she contacted CJGEA offering to table the petition on behalf of the
community. With the research from CJGEA the petition was developed and set to the National Senate. After the tabling of the petition the speaker of the senate
asked the senate committee on health to take up the Issue. The committee worked closely with CJGEA and they came for a verification visit in Owinouhuru. They
later invited CJGEA team to Nairobi where our team addressed the committee, guiding them on the background on the case to inform the final report. CJGEA worked
closely with the clerk until the final report was tabbed back in the senate. However, CJGEA was disappointed with the final conclusion that the senate had
failed to get those culpable in the poisoning of the community. A major error in the final report also set us back as the search that had been attached from
the registrar of companies was not for Metal refinery EPZ LTD but for a company with a similar name Kenya Metal refinery EPZ. This set us back and we had to
develop an advocacy towards parliament.