UN demands better protection for journalists on environment beat

A UNESCO report found that journalists and news outlets reporting on environmental issues dealt with about 750 attacks in the past 15 years


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Published: Sat 4 May 2024, 8:07 PM

Marking the World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted an uptick in violence faced by journalists covering environmental issues, which has made the profession increasingly dangerous.

The UN chief said journalists and media professionals "have a key role in informing and educating" the public about the world's current environmental and climate emergency, which stands as a threat to future generations.

It is through this work that people can have a greater understanding of environmental factors affecting the world and advocate for change, he said.

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However, based on recent UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) reports, journalists, especially environmental journalists, face violent attacks and even death for simply doing their job.

"Dozens of journalists covering illegal mining, logging, poaching and other environmental issues have been killed in recent decades," Guterres said. But, "in the vast majority of cases, no one has been held to account."

UNESCO's report analysed the violence that environmental journalists face.

The report found that journalists and news outlets reporting on environmental issues dealt with about 750 attacks in the past 15 years, the Secretary-General said.

In an interview with UN News, Guilherme Canela, UNESCO's chief of freedom of expression and safety of journalists, said the report found that 70 per cent of journalists doing environmental reporting dealt with at least one form of violence, and a quarter of the surveyed reporters dealt with legal attacks.

Additionally, Canela said that over the past 50 years, 44 journalists covering environmental stories were killed.

He said it is important to remember that journalists are important observers of conflict zones and that they provide lifesaving information for civilian populations affected by these conflicts.

"UNESCO is sounding the alarm that we need to take care of the protection of those journalists covering environmental issues," he said, "because raising that awareness about what's going on in the environment and holding powerful actors accountable is absolutely essential to face the current environmental challenges that the planet is having."

Thirty years after the historic Santiago Declaration, which advanced media independence and pluralism, UNESCO reaffirms its worldwide commitment to defending press freedom of expression.

World Press Freedom Day is dedicated to the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the current global environmental crisis.


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