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The aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Dominica last September.
The aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Dominica last September.
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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — More than 40 journalists and representatives of regional and international organisations are meeting here today and tomorrow as the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM) hosts a disaster reporting symposium in the face of last year’s devastating hurricane season.

In addition to representatives of the ACM’s 14 national associations and focal points and other journalists, the symposium will include resource personnel from the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Caricom Secretariat, Caricom Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), Regional Security System (RSS) and the Public Media Alliance (UK).

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), UN Information Centre for the Caribbean (UNIC), Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) and Latin American and Caribbean Alliance of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) will also be represented.

The event is being supported through an IFEX grant and will focus on media involvement in management and coordination issues through all phases of both natural and man-made disasters.

ACM president Wesley Gibbings said one of the highlights of the symposium will be “the development of protocols to identify the rules of engagement between journalists and disaster response agencies and personnel..”

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This, Gibbings said, was “important to ensure that an efficient and reliable stream of news and information reaches affected populations and interests beyond that might be in a position to render assistance in saving lives and preserving existing public infrastructure.”

The ACM has also long advocated for inclusion of natural disasters as one of the more serious challenges to media development in the developing world.

Since its establishment in 2001, the organisation has been involved in activities in support of colleagues affected by disasters; notably in Grenada following Hurricane Ivan of 2004 and in Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake.

In response to the serious impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, the ACM arranged the provision of equipment to affected journalists in hard-hit Anguilla, Barbuda, Dominica and Tortola.

“In all instances,” a concept note for the symposium says, “considerable damage to media plant and equipment and injury/displacement of journalists and other media workers critically undermined the ability of conventional media to play a role in response and recovery efforts, whatever the part they played in mitigation and preparedness activity.”