UNESCO Reveals 70 percent of Environmental Journalists Face Attacks

For World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO reported that 70 percent of environmental journalists faced attacks. Due to the lack of environmental journalism, the number of climate disinformation has also increased. These troubling issues are hindering the climate action progress.

UNESCO Reveals 70 percent of Environmental Journalists Face Attacks
Woman Pen Notebook by The Climate Reality Project

06-05-2024

Dara Masita

Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

 

         On May 3rd, 2024, the world celebrates press freedom day. On this day, UNESCO published its new report, “Press and Planet in Danger”, to bring to light the danger journalists face when reporting about environmental issues.

         UNESCO consulted with over 900 environmental journalists from 129 countries. It was reported that at least 749 journalists experienced assault between 2009 and 2023. They were marked for murder, physical violence, detention and arrest, online harassment or legal attacks. This is why half of the journalists also censor themselves due to fear of being targeted or having to expose their sources.

         The work of environmental journalists is significant in informing the masses about the climate crisis, loss of biodiversity, and environmental justice that will mobilise and empower environmental protection actions. Unfortunately, journalists who reported on illegal mining, poaching, logging or other issues have been found dead in several countries. Furthermore, the absence of governmental protection exacerbates the challenges faced by environmental journalists as they carry out investigations in remote locations.

 

         With these journalists being targeted, climate disinformation becomes uncontrollable. Climate disinformation occurs when the information distributor knowingly spreads false information to protect their own interest, which will ultimately incite division of opinions and delay climate action. Entities that capitalise on environmental destruction are the main suspects in the targeting of environmental journalists and climate disinformation.  

The global community has recognised this troubling issue and is beginning to implement measures in response. The UNESCO Global Roadmap against Climate Disinformation is one of the outcomes from the World Press Freedom Day Global Conference. It lays down the role of the government, media, academia, civil society and digital platforms in supporting and protecting environmental journalists as well as promoting the integrity of climate and environmental information online. Additionally, the Director-General of UNESCO is initiating a grants program aimed at offering legal and technical assistance to more than 500 environmental journalists confronting persecution. Moreover, new initiatives are being introduced to encourage critical thinking regarding climate disinformation and enhance the regulation of digital platforms.

Environmental journalists are crucial actors in the climate action regime. Environmental information is valuable to coordinate the following course of action. As an individual, there are several ways to support them such as amplifying their work and advocating for their safety. Furthermore, staying informed and practising critical thinking is particularly important to avoid being swayed by climate disinformation. Let us remain hopeful for further advancements in safeguarding press freedom by the time the next World Press Freedom Day arrives

 

 

Sources and further reading:

‘UNESCO report reveals 70% of environmental journalists have been attacked for their work’ (UNESCO, 3 May 2024) <https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/unesco-report-reveals-70-environmental-journalists-have-been-attacked-their-work> accessed 6 May 2024.

Nesbianet Usaini, ‘70% Of Environment Journalists Report Attacks, Threats, Pressure – UN’ (Channels, 3 May 2024) <https://www.channelstv.com/2024/05/03/70-of-environment-journalists-report-attacks-threats-pressure-un/>  accessed 6 May 2024.

‘World Press Freedom Day 2024: Journalism in the face of the environmental crisis’ (UNRIC, 3 May 2024) <https://unric.org/en/world-press-freedom-day-2024-journalism-in-the-face-of-the-environmental-crisis/> accessed 8 May 2024.