CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

A Press for the Planet

The global ecological crisis is real, and so are the increasing dangers that characterise the work of journalists across the world who must unearth the influences, often behind-the-scenes negotiations, and developments that shape our living environments.

According to a new report released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on World Press Day 2024, at least 749 journalists or news media reporting on environmental issues have been attacked in the last 15 years, with online disinformation escalating tremendously in this period.

This trend is particularly concerning in Africa, where the growing wave of illiberal democracies has led to increased restrictions on critical voices, including journalists. Nigeria exemplifies this trend, ranking 112th in the 2024 World Press Freedom Index, only showing a slight improvement from its 123rd position in 2023, a year marked by chilling attacks against media practitioners – including physical attacks, censorships, illegal detentions – perpetrated by both state and non-state actors.

Speaking at a Symposium hosted on May 7 to celebrate the 2024 World Press Freedom Day, Robert Egbe, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa’s (CAPPA) Media and Communication Officer, urged journalists not to relent in reporting on environmental issues despite challenging and restrictive work conditions.

World Press Freedom Day is observed every year on May 3. It is an occasion to observe and evaluate the global state of media freedoms while upholding the fundamental principles of independence and protection of human and media rights that define a free press.

The symposium, organised by the Human Rights Journalists Network Nigeria (HRJN) in collaboration with the UNESCO office in Nigeria, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), featured a three-member panel, including Robert Egbe, who discussed issues around this year’s commemoration theme: A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis.

While addressing issues related to the theme of the day, Egbe expressed concern about underreported environmental issues, including water contamination and a lack of potable water supply in some Lagos communities. He noted that environmental crises are commonplace in Nigeria, and the victims’ lives and livelihoods may depend on journalists raising the alarm through their reports.

“We, journalists, do not seem to be paying enough attention to environmental concerns that affect lives. Journalists often overlook these critical issues, leaving them undercovered and unaddressed. I understand the extremely challenging conditions under which many Nigerian journalists work, but there are ways to overcome these challenges if one is determined,” Egbe said.

He informed the gathering that CAPPA’s doors were always open to journalists seeking expert guidance and collaboration in reporting climate change and other pressing environmental justice issues.

Earlier, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) Edetaen Ojo, argued in his keynote address that the Nigerian media was failing in environmental reporting.

Ojo highlighted the constitutional obligations of the media to monitor and ensure compliance with environmental protection laws as enshrined in various legal frameworks. He bemoaned the lack of significant media coverage and accountability regarding the government’s failure to protect the environment effectively.

HRJN’s Executive Director Kehinde Adegboyega noted that some journalists have had to change careers following increasing attacks against journalists.

Adegboyega, in his welcome address, highlighted the HRJN’s efforts to empower journalists and educate them about their rights.

The panel session, moderated by Shakirudeen Bankole, a journalist and HRJN team member, probed discussions around environmental issues and the role of journalism in addressing these concerns.

Co-panellist Bunmi Yekini, a broadcast journalist, and Vice Chairperson of the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), observed, among other things, that journalists excelled in covering news in every aspect except the environmental sector.

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