On the eve of World Environment Day (5 June) , Reporters Without Borders is today releasing a report entitled “Deforestation and pollution, high-risk subjects.” Attacks on journalists and bloggers who try to cover any kind of environmental damage are growing steadily all over the world but those who investigate industrial pollution or the destruction of forests are particularly exposed.
With the help of its worldwide network of correspondents, Reporters Without Borders has gathered information about incidents in Indonesia, Argentina, El Salvador, Gabon, India, Azerbaijan, China and Morocco. Behind each of these threats and attacks, there were big corporations, criminal gangs or government officials who had been corrupted by money from mining or logging.
The latest incident was the beating that an Indonesian army officer gave to Ahmadi, a journalist in Aceh province, two weeks ago. The officer did not like a story Ahmadi had written about his involvement in illegal logging. Ahmadi joins the long list of journalists who have been targeted for shedding light on deforestation, which is responsible for at least 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Published in English, French and Spanish, this report condemns the responsibility of the Vietnamese and Chinese governments in serious press freedom violations that deprive the public of crucial information about cases of pollution or deforestation. The report describes, for example, the way the government in Hanoi has tried to suppress any debate about the environmental impact of bauxite mines being operated by a Chinese company. A field investigation in Argentina established that journalists are under pressure from both supporters and opponents of a mining project.
Mining companies (Aluminium Corp of China, China Metallurgical Group and the Canadian companies Yamana Gold and Pacific Rim), oil companies (Shell, Addax and Synopec), wood pulp companies (Sinar Mas and Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper) and two French multinationals (Bolloré and Areva) are identified in this report as having a direct or indirect role in cases of intimidation or censorship.
This is the second report that Reporters Without Borders has published on this subject. In September 2009, a report entitled “The dangers for journalists who expose environmental issues” looked at 15 cases of journalists and bloggers who had been killed, attacked, jailed, threatened or censored for covering environmental problems in Russia, Cambodia, Bulgaria and Brazil.
Reporters Without Borders reiterates the appeal it launched during last December’s Copenhagen Summit: “The media are needed to gather information and disseminate it to the public. As regards the challenges of climate change, the media help to establish credible, independent diagnoses of the state of our planet. Their analyses play a crucial role in helping decision-makers to adopt policies and rules that will lead to the desired changes.”