UN Chief Calls for Protection of Journalists Covering Environmental Issues

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New York: Urgent Action Needed to Protect Environmental Journalists

Marking the World Press Freedom Day on Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres shed light on the alarming increase in violence against journalists who cover environmental issues. This dangerous trend has made the profession of environmental journalism increasingly perilous.

Guterres emphasized the vital role that journalists and media professionals play in informing and educating the public about the current environmental and climate emergency that poses a threat to future generations. Through their work, people can gain a better understanding of the environmental factors affecting the world and advocate for change.

However, recent reports from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have revealed the disturbing reality faced by journalists, particularly environmental journalists, who simply carry out their job. The reports indicate that these journalists face violent attacks and even death.

Guterres highlighted the fact that dozens of journalists covering illegal mining, logging, poaching, and other environmental issues have been killed in recent decades. Shockingly, in the vast majority of cases, no one has been held accountable for these heinous crimes. UNESCO’s report further analyzed the violence faced by environmental journalists and found that over the past 15 years, journalists and news outlets reporting on environmental issues have dealt with approximately 750 attacks.

In an interview with UN News, Guilherme Canela, UNESCO’s Chief of Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, revealed that the report discovered that 70 percent of journalists engaged in environmental reporting have experienced at least one form of violence. Furthermore, a quarter of the surveyed reporters faced legal attacks.

Adding to the gravity of the situation, Canela disclosed that in the past 50 years, 44 journalists who covered environmental stories lost their lives. This serves as a stark reminder that journalists are crucial observers in conflict zones.

The Importance of Environmental Journalism

Environmental journalism plays a critical role in raising awareness about the pressing environmental challenges our world faces today. Journalists who dedicate themselves to reporting on environmental issues serve as the voice for the planet, shedding light on the consequences of human actions and policies.

Through their investigative reporting, environmental journalists expose environmental crimes, hold corporations and governments accountable, and provide a platform for marginalized communities whose voices often go unheard. Their work is essential for shaping public opinion, influencing policy decisions, and driving positive change.

However, the very nature of environmental journalism makes it a high-risk profession. Journalists who dare to uncover the truth behind environmental degradation and exploitation often find themselves in the crosshairs of powerful interests who seek to silence them.

The Dangers Faced by Environmental Journalists

Environmental journalists face a multitude of dangers in their line of work. They encounter threats from various sources, including criminal networks involved in illegal activities such as mining, logging, and poaching. These journalists expose the illegal practices that harm the environment and exploit natural resources, making them targets for those who seek to protect their illicit operations.

Furthermore, environmental journalists often find themselves at the center of conflicts between local communities and corporations or governments. These conflicts arise from disputes over land rights, resource extraction, and environmental policies. Journalists who report on these issues become vulnerable to physical attacks, harassment, and intimidation from both sides of the conflict.

Legal attacks also pose a significant threat to environmental journalists. Lawsuits and legal harassment are used as tools to silence journalists and deter them from pursuing investigative reporting. Powerful entities exploit legal systems to drain the resources of journalists and media organizations, making it financially burdensome to continue their important work.

Moreover, environmental journalists face the risk of being labeled as activists or enemies of progress. Their reporting often challenges the narrative of economic development at any cost, which can lead to smear campaigns and threats to their personal safety.

International Response and Accountability

The international community must recognize the urgency of protecting environmental journalists and take immediate action to address this growing crisis. Governments, civil society organizations, and media outlets must collaborate to create a safe environment for journalists to carry out their vital work.

First and foremost, governments must enact and enforce laws that safeguard the freedom of the press and protect journalists from violence and intimidation. Legal frameworks should be strengthened to ensure that those responsible for attacks on journalists are held accountable for their actions.

Additionally, international organizations such as the United Nations should prioritize the safety of journalists and allocate resources to support training programs and initiatives that enhance the protection of journalists reporting on environmental issues.

Media organizations have a crucial role to play in this effort. They must provide comprehensive safety training to journalists, equip them with the necessary resources and tools to mitigate risks, and establish networks of support and solidarity among journalists facing threats.

Furthermore, it is essential to raise awareness among the general public about the importance of environmental journalism and the dangers faced by journalists in this field. By educating the public about the vital role journalists play in protecting the environment, we can foster a culture of respect and support for their work.


The increasing violence against environmental journalists is a grave threat to press freedom and the global fight against environmental degradation. Journalists who dedicate themselves to reporting on environmental issues are on the frontlines, risking their lives to expose the truth and advocate for change.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure their safety and protect their fundamental right to freedom of expression. By taking decisive action to address this crisis, we can create an environment where journalists can continue their crucial work without fear of violence or reprisals. Only then can we truly address the environmental challenges facing our world and secure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Source: The Manila Times

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