World Press Freedom Day, let's protect voices of environmental journalists
World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on May 3, is a day dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of press freedom and the need to maintain media independence.
As climate change has become one of the most pressing problems facing our world, environmental journalism is increasingly under threat. Journalists covering environmental issues are being attacked, harassed and even killed, especially in developing countries where environmental reporting is considered the ‘second most dangerous place’ after covering armed conflict.
UNESCO reports that a total of 86 journalists and other media workers were killed in the world in 2022, an average of one every four days, and Latin America and the Caribbean has been the deadliest region for these professionals.
Although the number of journalists killed in countries in conflict rose to 23 in 2022, up from 20 the previous year, the overall increase was mainly due to killings in countries without major or non-conflict countries.
Their number almost doubled, from 35 cases in 2021 to 61 in 2022, representing three-quarters of all murders last year.
These journalists were killed for various reasons, including reprisals for reporting on organized crime, armed conflicts or the rise of extremism, and for covering sensitive issues such as corruption, crimes against the environment, abuse of power and protests.
The concept was accepted by the UNESCO General Conference in 1993, and the UN General Assembly declared it as the annual date of World Press Freedom Day. The day is observed each year to raise awareness of the importance of press freedom and maintaining media independence.
Environmental journalism is increasingly under threat
The growing threats facing journalists covering environmental issues have become as pressing as the issue of climate change itself. These reporters are now being increasingly attacked, harassed and even killed.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that since 2009, 30 environmental journalists have been killed. They claim that covering the environment in developing countries is the second most dangerous step a journalist can take after reporting on armed conflict.
According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 10 environmental journalists were killed between 2010 and 2016. Most of these deaths occurred in Asia, with India and Cambodia standing out as particularly dangerous countries for journalists.
It’s disheartening to learn that journalists are being killed while covering crucial stories related to everything from illegal sand mining to pollution caused by oil companies. These issues affect us all and are vitally important.
The dangerous risks journalists face also pose a serious threat to freedom of expression. Journalistic coverage of our planet is one of the most valuable tools we have to raise public awareness of climate change and suggest ways to address it. But as journalists become increasingly objective, we risk losing their essential voices and stories.
In 2015, two Indian journalists, Jagendra Singh and Sandeep Kothari, were killed for reporting on sensitive environmental issues such as illegal logging, mining, and pollution. Such journalists are often threatened, attacked or imprisoned.
Some governments resort to censorship or draconian laws to prevent journalists from covering environmental problems, while some companies try to buy their silence. But despite these obstacles, environmental journalists are increasingly forming partnerships to improve the quality of their reporting, collaborate with each other, and better equip and protect themselves in the field.
Threats to Environmental Journalism
Governments are using censorship and other means to prevent journalists from reporting on environmental issues. For example, when the online documentary ‘Under The Dome‘ about air pollution in Beijing went viral in March, the Chinese Communist Party quickly removed it from websites.
In Ecuador, strict legislation prevents journalists from covering oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park, where its biological diversity is internationally recognized. In Canada, the government muzzled federal scientists to prevent them from speaking to reporters about the drawbacks of extracting oil from the tar sands.
Threats to environmental journalists and their work have significant implications. Environmental journalism is one of the most important tools we have to educate the public about climate change and what we can do about it. Without the essential stories and voices of journalists, we risk losing valuable information about the state of our planet and the actions we must take to protect it.
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