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World Press Freedom Day

The world celebrates the 31st World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3. This day is dedicated to the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the current global environmental crisis. According to the United Nations, the role of the journalist is essential for democracy and for the protection of the planet. But we must recognize that in recent years, we have great difficulty working in good conditions. The practice of journalism is increasingly risky.

Press freedom Index@RSF

Freedom of the press is under attack. Political forces of all stripes do not guarantee the freedom of journalists freedom, says the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its latest report on the state of press freedom in the world. Journalists are threatened and less protected. The political indicator is the one that drops the most in 2024, with an overall fall of 7.6 points, reveals RSF. France is ranked 21st. Working as a journalist is not easy in France. The obstruction of freedom of expression related to the A69 is proof of this. Despite the legal framework, reporters during demonstrations are targeted by police violence or demonstrators.

Freedom of expression undermined

UNESCO, in turn, sheds new light on the safety of journalists. This United Nations agency for Culture, Education and Science has just published a study and a survey on the working conditions of environmental journalists. In collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists. 905 journalists answered the question about their safety assessment. 41% are women and 43% come from Africa. More than 70% of the journalists interviewed were attacked, threatened or pressured while covering environmental issues. 41% of the journalists interviewed were assaulted while reporting. 60% were victims of cyber harassment.

Over 80% of female journalists report being victim of attacks while working on environmental issues. They received psychological threats of pressure. 42% of female journalists responding to the survey have practiced self-censorship. Over two thirds of journalists from the survey think that climate-change-related disinformation has increased over the past years.

The safety of environmental journalists is in danger. Since 2009, at least 749 journalists in 89 countries have been attacked. According to reliable data taken by UNESCO, the journalists attacked are working on the causes of climate change, illegal mining, deforestation and fossil fuels. These journalists reported on specific community issues such as agribusiness, land grabbing, and the consequences of extreme weather.

In 15 years, UNESCO has counted at least 194 journalists and media threatened in Europe, North America and the Caribbean. The police and military forces are primarily responsible for these reprimands. Since 2009, 204 journalists and media covering environmental issues have been prosecuted. 93 of these journalists have faced criminal charges. More than 300 attacks have occurred in the past five years. There is a 42% increase over the previous five-year period.

Yet the work of the environmental journalist in recent years is crucial. Solution journalism is one of the ways to explain and analyze an environmental issue. We, experienced journalists, have made this choice. Radio Era Environnement, born in 2020, also provides critical information on the environmental situation in Comoros and around the world.

Question the effectiveness of projects

We talk about environmental problems and analyze the solutions to those problems. However, we note a state monopoly of environmental communication in the Comoros. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is responsible for all environmental projects. The Comorian state gave him permission. Civil society is struggling to stand out and reflect on the follow-up of solutions presented by UNDP.
In recent years, however, diaspora-led NGOs have been openly critical of the archipelago’s inaction ahead of bad weather. The Comoros are indeed facing in recent weeks an epidemic of cholera and are victims as in Kenya or Tanzania to episodes of intense rains causing flooding.

Heavy floods in Comoros

Against self-censorship

It’s been 16 years since I made a documentary about the environment in this country. There are many questions about the management of environmental protection in this archipelago. The population regularly undergoes climate change without real support. Journalists do not dare to think about the scope of environmental projects and workshops. It’s time to ask the real questions. Stop self-censorship. I call on all journalists to support us, and to ask questions about projects financed by the Green Climate Fund in the Comoros, about other climate change adaptation projects in disaster areas, areas identified for a long time. I urge UNDP and other organizations to inform journalists about project monitoring. I ask the different communities to trust the work of journalists. But we are aware that press freedom is problematic in the Comoros. The archipelago is 71st in the Reporters Without Borders ranking.

We are aware that press freedom is problematic in this country. Comoros is 71st in the Reporters Without Borders ranking. Intimidation and arrests of journalists are almost a daily occurrence especially during elections. We must not give up in the face of these abuses. We also recall the need to train journalists, especially those working exclusively on social networks. Information should only be on verified facts. And we can train these journalists.

The announcement of funding for the loss and damage fund is a red flag. This fund is intended for least developed countries and small island developing states. It was welcomed by all at COP27. However, it must be the subject of special attention and follow-up. The first meeting of the board of this fund in Abu Dhabi this week was devoted to reflection on access to finance by communities affected by natural disasters. We journalists have an obligation to investigate solutions and their viability. For the well-being of our planet. We deserve to work freely.


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