Article Argues for Press Freedom to Stop Climate Change


Photo by Arkibong Bayan

As the world comes to terms with the reality of climate change, journalists who can navigate through both the science and the propaganda are at a premium. But as the role of environmental journalists gains importance, so do the costs of reporting in terms of dollars and lives. Newsrooms, of course, are shrinking due to lost advertising revenue, while at the same time corrupt governments and business interests, in some of the most remote but ecologically sensitive places on the globe, are threatening reporters' lives. A new article calls for new efforts between non traditional allies to save both journalism and the planet.The article was written by Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and published in the World Policy Journal. In it, Simon uses several stories to show how environmental journalists are threatened by "harassment, lawsuits, violent attacks, and even murder."

Most notably, Simon tells the case of Russian journalist Mikhail Beketov, who was beaten last November for reporting on efforts to stop a planned highway that would have gone through the Khimki Forest, outside Moscow. Beketov was beaten so badly that several of his fingers had to be amputated. When his attackers learned that he wasn't killed, they started sending text messages saying that they intended to finish the job.

There are environmental reporters like Bektov across the globe who everyday risk their lives to educate the world about environmental destruction. Simon argues that the world is more threatened by catastrophic climate change if journalists in places like China, Burma, and Indonesia can't report on what's going on on the ground or under it. Without this crucial knowledge, the world will be unprepared to deal with the consequences of environmental change. Global warming knows no nationality or border, and its effects touch everyone on the planet. The inability of reporters to tell us about environmental devastation is a clear and present danger, Simon says.

Ensuring the free flow of information about environmental issues must be a central focus of the Obama administration’s efforts to combat global warming. Likewise, environmental groups, press freedom organizations, and concerned governments around the world must unite to confront those who seek to stifle such reporting.

He puts forward three specific steps that both can take to help solve the problem:

1. Foundations dedicated to public interest journalism should underwrite special environmental reporting teams to insure that the issues that need coverage receive coverage.

2. Press freedom groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists and
Reporters Without Borders should join with environmental groups to "support
journalists around the world who face persecution, harassment, and violence."

3. Governments that are dedicated to combating climate change should make protecting journalists part of their plans.

You can read the full article here.

More on journalists and the environment:
American Petroleum Institute Hosts Conference Call with Bloggers, Journalists
Should We Care that A Seattle Newspaper Just Stopped Printing?

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