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May 20, 2024
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World Press Freedom Day: UNESCO new report reveals attack on environmental journalists.

A new report published by UNESCO, titled Press and Planet in Danger, has revealed the increase in violence and intimidation encountered by journalists and media outlets in the cause of their duty.

According to the report, at least 749 journalists and news media outlets reporting environmental issues were targeted with murder, physical violence, detention, arrest, online harassment and legal attacks around 2009-2023.

The report, launched at the 2024 World Press Freedom Day Global Conference in Santiago, Chile, stated that the problem is global, with attacks taking place in 89 countries in all regions of the world.

The report observed that at least 44 journalists killed while investigating environmental issues over the last 15 years, of which only 5 have resulted in convictions. It also found other forms of physical attack were also prevalent, with 353 incidents, which has doubled in recent years, rising from 85 in 2014-2018 to 183 between 2019-2023.

In a consultation with 900 environmental journalists from 129 countries carried out by UNESCO in March 2024, 70% reported experiencing attacks, threats or pressure linked to their reporting. Among these, two-in-five subsequently experienced physical violence.

The data shows that women journalists report being more exposed than men to online harassment, echoing the trend identified in the UNESCO’s previous report The Chilling: global trends in online violence against women journalists.

In addition to physical attacks, a third of journalists surveyed said they had been censored, and almost half (45%) said they self-censored when covering the environment, due to fear of being attacked, having their sources exposed, or due to an awareness that their stories conflicted with the interests of concerned stakeholders.

Speaking at World Press Freedom Day Global Conference, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay said, “Without reliable scientific information about the ongoing environmental crisis, we can never hope to overcome it. And yet the journalists we rely on to investigate this subject and ensure information is accessible face unacceptably high risks all over the world.”

“And climate-related disinformation is running rampant on social media. On World Press Freedom Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to defending freedom of expression and protecting journalists worldwide.”

A major outcome of the World Press Freedom Day Global Conference, “UNESCO Global Roadmap against Climate Disinformation” identifies the roles of governments, the media, academia and researchers, civil society and digital platforms can play to support and protect environmental journalists and promote the integrity of information on the environment and climate change online.

Azoulay announces the launch of a grants programme to provide legal and technical support to over 500 environmental journalists facing persecution, and new initiatives to promote critical thinking about climate disinformation and to improve the regulation of digital platforms, in line with UNESCO’s Guidelines for the Governance of Digital Platforms.

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