Award-winning Annonciata Byukusenge, chief editor at www.rwandanews24.rw, focuses on environmental and climate change reporting as well as health reporting. She is the Rwandan Winner in the Women in News Leadership by World Association of Newspapers (WANIFRA).
After attending COP 27 in Egypt, Byukusenge was awarded top prize as best environmental journalist in Rwanda in December 2022 by BIOCOOR.
She tells us why the story climate change is critical for Africa’s media.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I graduated from University of Rwanda 2012 and am currently chief editor at www.rwandanews24.rw, a mentor of Data Journalism at InfoNile; a fact checker at Code for Africa and a journalist at www.theforefrontmagazine.com.
I am an environmental and investigative journalist and member of the Rwanda Environmental Journalist (REJ). In October 2022, I was awarded in first Edition of Advancing Biotechnology reporting through OFAB-Rwanda. In December 2022, I was awarded by BIOCOOR as best environmental journalist 2022 in Rwanda.
How did you become a journalist?
I studied journalism and communication at University of Rwanda. Since them some women and men have left journalism, but I do journalism because of the passion. I became a journalist because after genocide against Tutsi 1994, in Rwanda there was many vulnerable people especially the survives of genocide.
These people were needed advocacy for different issues. Some of these issues are women faced the sexual violence during genocide, people haven’t accommodations, orphans… me too I am survive of genocide. After lost my father, family members and friends these inspired me to be a journalist. Other thing is that media play a big role in campaign of encouraging the killers to kill their blood and relations.
For me, I prefer to see journalists in public interest than political interest. I do journalism by passion.
What made you decide to focus on environment issues?
In previous years I worked in different departments in media. I decided to focus on science journalism – including environment – because everything in the world is based on the environment. We can have a positive impact on the world or in society when we protect the environment. The negative impact like climate change is caused by the lack of environment protection. That why I am focusing on the environment.
Why is it important for journalists to cover climate change?
This is a very important issue yet there is a great need for environmental journalists. The most important issue is that climate change is having a real impact on our environment and affecting the world around us.
Climate change causes disasters such as landslides, global warming, extreme cold and all these disaster are killing people and leading to food insecurity issues. It is good that journalists are interested in climate change reporting so that people can be informed about it in order to adapt, mitigate its impact and to find sustainable solutions.
As a female journalist, I am interested in climate change reporting because various studies and experts on climate change have declared that its effects will be more severe on women and children.
What advice do you have for other journalists who want to cover the environment?
I would really encourage them to start. In this life, everyone need money and to increase income in short time. But in environmental reporting is totally different, because the environment is vulnerable. Many journalists targeting money come faster, but in the environment there is no money. The money come as result or impact of reporting, because there is no person will tell that come and produce environmental stories to my customers. The environmental journalists have to talk for environment because they can’t talk themselves.
In my reporting I focus to the women in environment and conservation. Other thing is that I have my own platform www.theforefrontmagazine.com focus on the environment. The story awarded it about the role of women in conservation.
The process of this award, Biodiversity Conservation Organization (BIOCOOR), announced that they need to award environmental journalists in Rwanda. I applied as other journalists and on the ceremony day, they announced that I am a best environmental journalist of the year 2022.
What are the major challenges and/or opportunities for journalists in 2023?
A major challenge is that environmental stories don’t generate revenue in the media we serve. Many environment journalists struggle to make ends meet because their editors and employers tell them that their stories are irrelevant with their business.
Telling environment stories can be very costly. If a journalist pitches a story about environment, the owner can’t facilitate her or him to go to the field because of mindset that these stories don’t relevant with their business.
My advice is for journalists to apply for grants and find other ways to support their reporting endeavors because these are critical stories to tell.