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70% of environment journalists report attacks, threats, pressure: UN

By AFP

May 3, 2024 01:06 PM


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UNESCO awards press prize to Palestinian journalists in Gaza

Seventy percent of environmental journalists from 129 countries, polled in March, reported experiencing attacks, threats or pressure related to their job, UNESCO said Thursday.

Of those, two in five subsequently experienced physical violence, it said in a report released on World Press Freedom Day. More than 900 reporters were questioned for the poll.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization warned of an increase in violence against and intimidation of journalists reporting on the environment and climate.

"Without reliable scientific information about the ongoing environmental crisis, we can never hope to overcome it," UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

"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."

UNESCO said at least 749 journalists and news media outlets reporting on environmental issues were "targeted with murder, physical violence, detention and arrest, online harassment or legal attacks" between 2009 and 2023.

More than 300 of those attacks occurred between 2019 and 2023 –- a 42 percent increase on the preceding five-year period.

"The problem is global, with attacks taking place in 89 countries in all regions of the world," the agency added.

- 'Fear of being attacked' -

At least 44 environmental journalists have been killed for their work in the past 15 years, with convictions in only five cases, said the report.

On top of hundreds of reported physical attacks, "a third of journalists surveyed said they had been censored," it added.

"Almost half (45 percent) 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."

At a press freedom conference in Chile this week, UNESCO will announce the launch of a grants program to provide legal and technical support to over 500 environmental journalists facing persecution, said the statement.

UNESCO awards Palestinian journalists

UNESCO on Thursday awarded its world press freedom prize to all Palestinian journalists covering the war in Gaza, where Israel has been battling Hamas for more than six months.

"In these times of darkness and hopelessness, we wish to share a strong message of solidarity and recognition to those Palestinian journalists who are covering this crisis in such dramatic circumstances," said Mauricio Weibel, chair of the international jury of media professionals.

"As humanity, we have a huge debt to their courage and commitment to freedom of expression."

Audrey Azoulay, director general at the UN organisation for education, science and culture, said the prize paid "tribute to the courage of journalists facing difficult and dangerous circumstances".

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 97 members of the press have been killed since the war broke out in October, 92 of whom were Palestinians.

The war started with Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel estimates that 129 captives seized by militants during their attack remain in Gaza. The military says 34 of them are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 34,596 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.


AFP


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