Environmental communication among the media and environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) in Malaysia: a roller coaster ride?

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This study aims to answer four main research questions regarding the roles, strategies, barriers, and representation of the media and environmental nongovernmental organisations (ENGOs) in environmental communication in Malaysia. From a theoretical lens, this study has incorporated the essential concepts of media, ENGOs, and environmental communication from both Western and Asian, particularly Malaysian perspectives as primary points of reference. For the purpose of this study, a total of 13 interviewees from Media A and Media B and 11 interviewees from ENGO A and ENGO B were chosen for the qualitative interview while 2,050 environmental articles were collected as samples from Media A´s and Media B´s newspapers along with ENGO A´s and ENGO B´s newsletters from the period 2012 to 2014 for the quantitative content analysis. Specifically, the findings from interview confirmed that both the Malaysian media and ENGOs have shared quite similar roles in environmental communication, particularly in environmental legitimacy (creating trust, credibility, and relationships with the public), in democracy (acting as a watchdog and mobilising the public sphere), and in constructing public mind about environmental problems. Pictures undoubtedly were one of the most vital tools in social construction, especially for presenting the reality of the environmental problems to the public. This was in harmony with the results of the quantitative content analysis, where more than 60% of pictures were found on environmental articles in media newspapers and ENGOs newsletters. Malaysian media and ENGOs have shared two common strategies in environmental communication, namely campaigning and collaboration with other stakeholders, while the ENGOs have two extra strategies: advocacy and lobbying strategies. Malaysian media and ENGOs also have collaborated with each other and the level of collaboration between them was at the coordination (medium) level. Both social actors especially the media were also relied heavily on their sources for environmental articles and the result of quantitative content analysis showed that the government was the main source for media newspapers, whereas other ENGOs and laypersons were the main sources for ENGOs´ newsletters. There are also colossal barriers faced by both Malaysian media and ENGOs throughout the process of environmental communication and some of the barriers faced by both media and ENGOs include the problem with limited knowledge of the environment, while some other barriers, like media laws and ownership, were only faced by the media; other barriers such as funding problems were specifically faced by the ENGOs. In terms of representation of environmental information, the Malaysian media make more presentations on environmental problems, especially on topics like floods, wildlife and water crises in their newspapers, while ENGOs have given more attention to environmental effort topics such as conservation and sustainable living in their newsletters. Surprisingly, not only the media but also the ENGOs used the same (news) values like timeliness, proximity, and impact as criteria for the selection of environmental issues for their publications. Other factors such as the background of the organisation and the interest of journalists or editors also influence the selection of environmental issues. It is hoped that the proposed theoretical framework of this study can serve as a crucial guideline for the development of environmental communication studies, especially among the media and ENGOs not only in Malaysia but also in other (Southeast) Asian regions that share a similar background.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLüneburg
Number of pages499
Publication statusPublished - 21.09.2016