Thailand’s ‘Madam Disaster’ champions risk reduction

Ms. Darin Klong Ugkara of Thai PBS recounts her experience during the huge floods of 2011 in her country (Photo: UNISDR)
 
By Andy McElroy

KUALA LUMPUR, 16 November 2016 – Asia’s most prolific disaster risk reduction journalist has urged media colleagues from 12 other countries to move beyond simply describing events and instead help their audiences better protect themselves from various hazards.

Thai PBS’s news editor for disaster and weather reporting, Ms. Darin Klong Ugkara, said “it cannot be business as usual for journalists” if they want to do more to help save lives and protect livelihoods.

“It is time for the Asian media to take action on DRR communication,” Ms. Klong Ugkara said. “If they only report as they used to do we cannot help people adapt to cope with the severe weather and the disasters that will happen more and more throughout our lifetime.”

“Journalists should try to report on the causes and issues of disaster risk before and after a disaster event as it will help people to learn to adapt and be more resilient to disaster,” she said.

Ms. Klong Ugkara was addressing 21 senior television and radio journalists working for state broadcasters in a dozen countries – Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam – at a three-day Disaster Risk Reduction for Journalists training event.

The Thai PBS anchor presents a weekly ‘DRR Show’, which is watched by millions. She is affectionately known as ‘Madam Disaster’ by taxi drivers, street vendors and people across Thailand. The hit show was launched in the wake of the devastating floods in Thailand in 2011.

The Programme Director of the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters of Nepal, Mr. Sirjan Adhikari, said that Ms. Klong Ugkara had inspired him to revamp his daily ‘Lifeline’ programme, which commands a nationwide audience.

“We started broadcasting Lifeline a week after last year’s earthquake (April 2015) and it developed into a daily slot at 7:30 a.m. every day that has provided advice on a host of issues and areas in terms of recovering from the disaster,” Mr. Adhikari said.

“One part that I think we have missed is covering how government planning and policies relate to the community level. This is something that we will take up much more when I return.”

The Lifeline programme is carried by 200 of Nepal’s 293 community radio stations and has developed a loyal following across the country.

Mr. Adhikari and the other 20 journalists shared examples of their past work on reporting disasters for critique from their peers, before drawing up disaster risk reduction media plans, with packages of documentary ideas for future airing.

The media plans explored some of the many opportunities of reporting on the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – a 15-year agreement adopted by the international community in 2015, and the world’s most ambitious plan to date to substantially reduce disaster risk and losses – in their respective countries and localities.

These included the provision of simple preparedness advice to protect property and food supplies as well as strengthening links with established local and national early warning systems.

The media in Asia is increasingly active on disaster risk reduction. In May this year, the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) committed its 280 member broadcasters in 57 countries – with a combined audience reach of three billion – to play their part in building a culture of climate and disaster resilience.

Two weeks ago at the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in New Delhi, India, the media disaster risk reduction group issued a voluntary action statement as part of the formal outcome of the conference that outlined their “key role and moral and ethical responsibility” to strengthen communication to reduce, prevent and manage disaster risk.

The Director of the Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD), Mr Chang Jin, opened the workshop. AIBD was established in 1977 as an inter-governmental organization, hosted by the Government of Malaysia. Its membership comprises 26 states plus 22 more that are associates as well as over 100 media organizations.

The AIBD hosted the training event, which was co-organized with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC).

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