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article imageEnvironment reporting second most risky field after war reporting

By Karen Graham     Jun 17, 2019 in World
Over the last decade, as many as 29 journalists who were investigating damage to the environment have been killed, along with many more suffering violence, harassment, intimidation, and lawsuits, according to a recent study.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), based in New York City, is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. With 40 experts around the world, when press freedom violations occur, CPJ mobilizes a network of correspondents who report and take action on behalf of those targeted.
CPJ produced this year's tally, and with the number of murders being as high as 29, they say this makes the field of journalism one of the most dangerous after war reporting. On every continent, journalists have been attacked for investigating concerns and abuses related to the impact of corporate and political interests scrambling to extract wealth from the earth’s remaining natural resources.
We are talking about the natural resources found in most of our products being used every day, from cell phones to pots and pans, and the fossil fuels we use. Led by Forbidden Stories, a group of 15 media partners, including the Guardian, El País and Le Monde, have come together to shine an international light on the way these activities affect local environments and communities.
Some 63 journalists  11 citizen journalists and four media assistants have been killed so far in 201...
Some 63 journalists, 11 citizen journalists and four media assistants have been killed so far in 2018, including Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, according to RSF
Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT, AFP
The CPJ study was produced for Green Blood, a reporting project whose aim is to continue the reporting of local environmental journalists who have been forced to abandon their work. The study focused primarily on the mining industry.
The climate crisis and the free press
The one thing the public needs is factual writing about the environment, along with in-depth science reporting. This is important and necessary in a world that is clouded with concepts of “alternative facts," "fake news," and those who would put a political "spin" to a story to make themselves or their organization look good.
“Environmental issues involve some of the greatest abuses of power in the world and some of the greatest of concentrations of power in the world,” said Bruce Shapiro, the director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.
Critics of President Donald Trump say his habit of denouncing "fake news" has led to a cli...
Critics of President Donald Trump say his habit of denouncing "fake news" has led to a climate that encourages attacks on journalists
Nicholas Kamm, AFP/File
“I’m hard put to think of a category of investigative reporters who are routinely dealing with more dangerous actors. Investigative reporting on the environment can be as dangerous a beat as reporting on narco smuggling.” Many people don't realize the extent an investigative reporter will go to in order to get the true story and all the facts.
CPJ executive director, Joel Simon, added: “Reporting such stories for national and international media often involves traveling to remote communities and confronting powerful interests. This makes it inherently dangerous."
He adds: “This is not a new issue, but it has become more acute as climate change has accelerated and environmental change more directly impacts people’s lives. I don’t see that changing any time soon, which is why it is so important to report on environmental issues despite the risk.”
As an example of the dangers environmental journalists face, one of the reports featured a nickel mine in Guatemala. Global demand for the mineral is high because of its use in cookware, surgical instruments, and electric vehicles.
A Brazilian farmer (pictured October 2016) walks through the Paracatu de Baixo village  which was ru...
A Brazilian farmer (pictured October 2016) walks through the Paracatu de Baixo village, which was ruined by the flood following the collapse of Brazilian mining company Samarco's iron ore waste reservoir in 2015
YASUYOSHI CHIBA, AFP/File
However, hundreds of indigenous Mayan families are paying a high price for its production in Guatemala. They have complained of evictions, criminal prosecutions, and water shortages. Journalists reporting on the abuses have been held under house arrest and forced into hiding.
The continued menacing of journalists is keeping factual information from the public. Ramesh Bhushal, project manager with the organization Earth Journalism, says, “What happens is that the journalists are discouraged from writing about those serious issues, and they end up writing about other issues that are easier to cover and they don’t get threats for.”
Freedom of the press is in grave danger
An annual report by Freedom House said press freedom saw notable declines in Europe while US President Donald Trump's vilification of the press has "seriously exacerbated an ongoing erosion of public confidence in the mainstream media."
It has gotten so bad that journalists across the globe have increasingly been forced to deal with threats of violence while carrying out their jobs, with politicians such as Donald Trump stoking a hatred of reporters that is degenerating into physical attacks.
The report cited last year's shooting at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis  Maryland  in which f...
The report cited last year's shooting at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, in which four journalists and one other staff member were killed
Mandel NGAN, AFP
To show just how far press freedom has fallen the United States - the Reporters Without Borders (RWB) annual World Press Freedom Index is now classifying the U.S. as a "Problematic" country for journalists to work in, ranking below the likes of Romania, Chile, and Botswana.
The new ranking came about after inflammatory comments from the president and a broader hatred of the media which resulted in the shooting of five newspaper staff at the Capital Gazette in Maryland.
The five top countries for journalists are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, and Denmark, in that order. Canada is ranked at No. 18, right below Luxembourg, while the U.S. has slipped to No. 48, between Romania and Senegal. Readers can probably guess which countries comprise the last five spots on the list of 180 countries.
More about Journalism, environmental journalism, Press freedom, Climate crisis, Reporters without borders
 
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