more than 70% of journalists who work on the subject have been threatened, according to Unesco

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A poster calling for justice after the deaths of Brazilian anthropologist Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips killed in June 2022 while reporting in the Amazon rainforest. In Rio de Janeiro, June 26, 2022. LUCIOLA VILLELA / AFP

More than 70% of journalists from 129 countries who cover environmental issues have claimed to have been victims of threats, pressure or attacks, warns the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in an investigation unveiled on Friday May 3, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

In its new report “Press and planet in danger”, UNESCO announces that it conducted a survey of 905 journalists in March and that more than 70% of them said they had been the target “attacks, threats or pressure” in connection with their investigations into environmental issues. Among them, two in five say they have suffered physical violence.

Some 85% of the journalists concerned say they have been the subject of threats or psychological pressure, 60% have been victims of online harassment, 41% of physical attacks and 24% said they had been attacked on a legal level.

Read the survey: Article reserved for our subscribers Behind attacks on journalists, disinformation and online hate operations

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Nearly half (45%) say they self-censor for fear of reprisals, of having their sources revealed, or because they are aware that their articles conflict with the interests of relevant stakeholders. Data also shows that female journalists are more exposed to online harassment than men.

Growing risks

As part of the publication of this investigation, UNESCO also revealed that at least 749 journalists and media outlets dealing with environmental issues were “the target of murder, physical violence, detentions and arrests, online harassment or legal attacks” during the period 2009-2023. A 42% increase in cases was noted between 2019 and 2023 compared to the previous period (2014-2018).

UNESCO recalls that at least forty-four journalists covering environmental issues have been killed since 2009 in fifteen countries, including thirty in Asia-Pacific and eleven in Latin America or the Caribbean. Some twenty-four survived attempted murders and only five murders resulted in convictions, i.e. “a shocking impunity rate of almost 90%”underlines UNESCO.

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Environmental journalists face increasing risks as their work “often intersects with highly profitable economic activities, such as illegal logging, poaching or illegal waste dumping”notes UNESCO.

The UN agency calls for increased support for journalists specializing in environmental issues because “Without reliable scientific information about the ongoing environmental crisis, we can never hope to overcome it”, declared the Director General of Unesco, Audrey Azoulay, quoted in the report. She emphasizes that “climate-related misinformation is omnipresent on social networks”.

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

The World with AFP

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