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United Nations demands better protection for journalists on environment beat

United Nations demands better protection for journalists on environment beat
4 May 2024 19:40


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

Guterres 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.

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

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.

Guterres noted that “Dozens of journalists covering illegal mining, logging, poaching and other environmental issues have been killed in recent decades.”

"But,“in the vast majority of cases, no one has been held to account,” he pointed out.

UNESCO’s report analysed the violence environmental journalists face.

It found that journalists and news outlets reporting on environmental issues dealt with about 750 attacks in the past 15 years,he said.

Speaking to UN News, UNESCO’s chief of freedom of expression and safety of journalists, Guilherme Canela, said the report found that 70 percent of journalists doing environmental reporting dealt with at least one form of violence, and a quarter of the surveyed reporters dealt with legal attacks.

Furthermore, over the past 50 years, 44 journalists covering environmental stories were killed, he noted.

Canela stressed the importance of remembering 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,” Canela continued.

30 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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