The lives of journalists and the environment are increasingly threatened

Posted on November 11, 2021

Pressures, attacks on physical integrity, even targeted assassinations … More and more journalists investigating the environment are suffering this sad fate. On the occasion of COP26, Reporters Without Borders and 60 journalists call on States to act by publishing an opinion piece.

A figure that shivers down your spine. According to the organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in 10 years no less than 21 journalists have been murdered for investigating “sensitive” environmental issues. Nearly 30 others are currently imprisoned and 75% of incidents have been recorded since the signing of the Paris Agreement (COP21) at the end of 2015.

On the occasion of the COP26 in Glasgow, more than 60 journalists specializing in environmental issues from 34 countries alerted to the situation by publishing a column entitled “Climate emergency, informational emergency!“. Among the signatories are the co-winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2020, Gaëlle Borgia, the French environment journalist Anne-Sophie Novel, the Russian Grigory Pasko (RSF Prize and Sakharov Prize 2002). The signatories call on the States “to give their national justice the means to fight against the persistent impunity for crimes committed against environmental journalists”.

Increasingly serious threats

Illegal mining, savage deforestation, industrial pollution, land grabbing, the subjects dealt with by environmental journalists increasingly touch on the corruption of states or companies. Hence the level of threats which continues to increase according to Pauline Adès-Mével, spokesperson for RSF. “Unlike investigative journalists who work on political corruption or tax laundering, public opinion has little perception of threats to environmental journalists. This form of invisibility puts them at greater risk. Especially those who work as an independent “, she explains.

According to the spokesperson for RSF, “the threats to which they are victims take different forms and most often increase in crescendo”. The first summons first impact the media or the working conditions of the journalists concerned: self-censorship, pressure from the editor-in-chief or the owner of the media, removal of aid to the press, disengagement of certain advertisers pointed out by an article. Then come the pressures addressed directly to the journalist. Among them, RSF lists fanciful and expensive defamation court proceedings, harassment on social networks, anonymous letters or phone calls, verbal violence, attacks on physical integrity and irreparable … targeted murder. .

Living in a democracy no longer necessarily protects

While the most serious cases are observed in countries where human rights are little or not respected by the powers that be, RSF deplores more and more threats against journalists living in democratic countries. Signatory of the RSF platform, Morgan Large, journalist since 2001 for the Breton radio station Kreiz Breizh, can attest to this. An agro-food specialist, the 49-year-old reporter has repeatedly investigated the undersides of intensive agriculture in Brittany. “Used to being questioned” on these subjects as a journalist, she explains having suffered much more serious threats following her testimony in the documentary “Brittany a sacrificed land” broadcast on France 5 in November 2020.

She tells : “The doors of my radio were forced open, I received anonymous night calls, suffered harassment on social media, I was vilified by a local agricultural magazine and I was threatened verbally… But the most serious was was the intoxication of my dog ​​and the sabotage of my car. Since then, I live in anguish for myself and my children and that is terrible as a mother. Psychologically, we are affected, we lose our dignity … “

Supported by those close to her, her media, her lawyers and RSF, she now continues her work as a journalist in the field as best she can. And Pauline Adès-Mével to conclude: “Beyond the media coverage, it is crucial that the authorities really protect these journalists. On our side, we are also working on the creation of a consortium of environmental journalists.”

Mathieu Viviani @MathieuViviani

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The lives of journalists and the environment are increasingly threatened