16th June 2024

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World going through unprecedented environmental emergency – UN boss

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António Gutteres

Gutteres laments the risk that environmental journalists endure in World Press Freedom Day message

Our Staff

The world is going through an unprecedented environmental emergency which poses an existential threat to this and future generations United Nations Secretary General, António Gutteres has said.

Gutteres said this in his World Press Freedom Day message.

He said people needed “to know about this – and journalists and media workers have a key role in informing and educating them”.

“Local, national and global media outlets can highlight stories about the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and environmental injustice,” Gutteres said.

Through the media’s work, “people come to understand the plight of our planet, and are mobilised and empowered to take action for change”.

Media workers also documented environmental degradation while they provided evidence of environmental vandalism that helped to hold those responsible to account.

“It is no surprise that some powerful people, companies and institutions will stop at nothing to prevent environmental journalists from doing their jobs.”

He said media freedom was under siege and that made environmental journalism was becoming increasingly dangerous. In most cases, perpetrators of environmental crimes have ended up walking scot-free without accounting for their crimes.

“Media freedom is under siege. And environmental journalism is an increasingly dangerous profession.

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

“In the vast majority of cases, no one has been held to account,” Gutteres said.

He said UNESCO had reported that in the past fifteen years, there had been some 750 attacks on journalists and news outlets reporting on environmental issues.

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“And the frequency of such attacks is rising.

“Legal processes are also misused to censor, silence, detain and harass environmental reporters, while a new era of climate disinformation focuses on undermining proven solutions, including renewable energy.”   

However, environmental journalists were not the only ones at risk. Around the world, media workers were risking “their lives trying to bring us news on everything from war to democracy”.

“I am shocked and appalled by the high number of journalists killed in Israeli military operations in Gaza.

“The United Nations recognises the invaluable work of journalists and media professionals to ensure that the public is informed and engaged.

“Without facts, we cannot fight mis- and disinformation. Without accountability, we will not have strong policies in place. Without press freedom, we won’t have any freedom. A free press is not a choice, but a necessity.”

He said World Press Freedom Day was crucial and called “on governments, the private sector and civil society to join us in reaffirming our commitment to safeguarding press freedom and the rights of journalists and media professionals around the world”.

Key word – environmental, press freedom

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