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PANEL DISCUSSION ON THE MEDIA AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

UNCED Secretary-General Maurice Strong said sustainable development cannot be presented as a generic term. The relationship between particular events and themes must be explained. Political interest depends on media interest. David Lascelles, Natural Resources Editor, Financial Times, London, said sustainable development must be explained in terms of its application to policy and business decision-making. Sustainable development is not yet an imperative, politically or legally. The CSD should avoid presenting the concept on an ethical basis. Barbara Pyle, Vice President for Environment Programmes, CNN/Turner Broadcasting, said the media needs more knowledge and policy makers need to be more accessible. Scientific uncertainty is a significant barrier. Censorship, high level interference, and training inadequacies also create coverage problems. She suggested that the CSD: develop a stake in the issues; adopt a bold charismatic spokesperson; find local role models of sustainable development; and highlight immediate issues.

Michael Keats, IPS World Desk Editor said that media coverage of development issues is confined to the occasional disaster story or global conference. Most stories have sustainable development dimensions, although many governments often prevent access to key information. Communications is a two-way street. Blair Palese, Chief Press Officer, Greenpeace International, said that CSD discussions must not be carried out in a vacuum. Real problems, people and issues must be highlighted. Problems in media coverage include the lack of linkage with other issues and the lack of coverage of available solutions. The Internet, the World Wide Web, interactive video and CDRom are useful communication tools. Ingebrigt Sten Jensens, JBR Rehlamebyra, described key messages to market sustainable development: consumption levels in the developed world are unsustainable; political leaders do not communicate the importance of reducing consumption for fear of losing political support; the people of the rich world do not long for more garbage; and a society based on sustainable consumption is not a society based on unbearable hardship but on a better life.

In the discussion that followed, the UN Correspondents Association said the UN puts its news through a 'blanding' machine. Algeria noted the lack of media coverage of desertification and drought. Friends of the Earth (UK) cited the importance of presenting sustainable development within a wider agenda. Sweden said television promotes unsustainable life-styles.

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