Journalists Facing Rising Violence and Intimidation Over Climate Crisis, Unesco Report Finds

New York City, USA – World press freedom is under threat as new research reveals a disturbing trend of violence and intimidation against environmental journalists. According to a recent UNESCO report, more than 70% of environmental reporters have been targeted for their work since 2009, highlighting the dangers faced by those covering the climate crisis.

The research, conducted jointly by UNESCO and the International Federation of Journalists, found that at least 749 environmental journalists have experienced violence and intimidation in the last 15 years. Shockingly, 44 reporters have been murdered between 2009 and 2023, with only five convictions resulting from these crimes.

Environmental journalism has become increasingly hazardous, with the report attributing the dangers to the remote and isolated nature of the work, as well as the subject matter being reported on, including issues involving fossil fuel companies, mining firms, land grabbing, and deforestation.

Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO, emphasized the critical role journalists play in providing reliable information about the environmental crisis. She called for greater protection of journalists worldwide, stressing the importance of defending freedom of expression on World Press Freedom Day.

Physical violence, including assaults, arbitrary detention, murder attempts, and abductions, has become the most common form of attack against environmental journalists. Incidents of violence have risen significantly in the past five years, reaching 111 cases, compared to 61 in 2014-2018 and 45 in 2009-2013.

The survey, which consulted 905 environmental journalists from 129 countries, revealed that state actors were responsible for at least half of the violence documented. The report also highlighted that male journalists experience attacks more frequently than women, except for digital aggression.

Guilherme Canela, the lead author of the report, stressed the importance of protecting journalists and ensuring access to accurate information to address the current environmental crisis. Governments were urged to end impunity for attacks on environmental journalists and provide increased safety training for reporters to mitigate risks.

The report outlined the urgent need for advocacy groups, journalism networks, donors, multilateral organizations, and other stakeholders to prioritize press freedom and journalist safety. Specific measures, including legislative reforms and policy changes, were recommended to safeguard environmental journalists and uphold the integrity of environmental reporting.