Saturday, December 19, 2009

Call for climate change journalists to be protected

by Carmelo Amalfi
JOURNALISTS who investigate climate change increasingly are at risk of harm and even death from hostile governments and companies, according to media agencies at COP15.
The International Institute for Environment and Development, International Media Support, Internews and Reporters Without Borders called on delegates and world leaders to sign a global petition to better protect journalists under principle 10 of the Rio Declaration and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The group representing national and international media organisations called on countries to give journalists access to information they need to convey to the wider public complex issues such as global warming, pollution and deforestation.
International Media Support director Jesper HĂžjberg said in the past three years 15 cases of threats and intimidation, imprisonment and deportations, had been linked directly to environmental issues including climate change.
“There is a need to focus on better protection of journalists, particularly environmental and climate journalists,” he said.
“Journalists live very dangerous lives exposing corruption, nepotism and negligence which obstruct efforts to protect the environment.”
Vincent Brossel, head of the Asia desk at Reporters Without Borders, said many of the countries attending the conference recognised the importance of empowering people to tackle climate change issues. But they could not do so with their hands tied.
“Without a free press, companies and governments will not be compelled to join the fight against climate change,” he said. “Journalists must be free to investigate.
“More and more are being harassed, some even killed for reporting on environmental issues.”
The media delegation said journalists investigating deforestation faced imprisonment and death in countries such as Cambodia, Philippines, India, Brazil and South Africa.
They said these countries say they are committed to fighting the causes of climate change yet it is journalists in their countries who were being persecuted.
Internews Earth Journalism Network global director James Fahn said climate change journalists faced similar dangers to covering the crime beat when covering pollution and illegal logging in countries such as Indonesia and Brazil.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, freelance journalists make up nearly 45 per cent of all journalists jailed around the world.
Half of all those in prison are online journalists.
In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, released last week, the Committee found a total of 136 reporters, editors and photojournalists behind bars on December 1 this year, an increase of 11 at the same time last year. The increase is due to 23 journalists jailed after a media crackdown in Iran.
“The rise of online journalism has opened the door to a new generation of reporters, but it also means they are vulnerable,” CPJ executive director Joel Simon said in a statement.

* Novaya Gazeta is an independent newspaper uncovering corruption and human rights abuses in Russia. Four of its journalists have been murdered. Other journalists on staff have been beaten, arrested and continue to be watched closely by the police
* Jila Baniyaghoub is an Iranian journalist who has been beaten, arrested and imprisoned for covering women's rights and State oppression
* Terry Gould is a freelance investigative journalist and author of ‘Murder without Borders: Dying for the Story in the World’s Most Dangerous Places’. His book examines the lives of seven journalists killed because of their work.

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