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Journos mark their Freedom Day amidst challenges


A press for the planet is the theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day (Image Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, May 3, 2024

As we commemorate World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2024, the global community turns its focus to a pressing issue that affects us all- the environmental crisis.

This year’s theme, “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis,” underscores the critical role that journalists play in raising awareness, holding power to account, and driving action to address the urgent challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation.

A defining challenge

The environmental crisis is perhaps the defining challenge of our time, with far-reaching implications for the health of our planet and the well-being of future generations. From devastating natural disasters and rising sea levels to dwindling biodiversity and the loss of crucial ecosystems, the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly impossible to ignore. In the face of such existential threats, the need for accurate, timely, and responsible journalism has never been more urgent.

Journalists serve as the frontline defenders of our planet, shining a light on environmental issues and exposing the forces driving environmental destruction. Through investigative reporting, data-driven analysis, and on-the-ground storytelling, journalists play a crucial role in uncovering the truth about the state of our environment and holding those responsible accountable for their actions.

Whether reporting on the impacts of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, the consequences of melting polar ice caps, or the role of corporate interests in driving environmental exploitation, journalists provide vital information that empowers citizens to take action and demand change.

Image by Belgian photojournalist Alain Schroeder shows a young girl gazes out of a window in Jakarta, Indonesia, to a flooded street (Image published by UNESCO)

Amplifying the voices

Journalists have a unique responsibility to amplify the voices of those most affected by the environmental crisis, including marginalised communities, indigenous peoples, and frontline activists.

By giving a platform to those whose voices are often silenced or ignored, journalists help to ensure that their stories are heard and their struggles acknowledged. This inclusive approach to environmental reporting not only fosters greater empathy and understanding but also strengthens the collective resolve to address the root causes of environmental injustice.

In the digital age, journalists have unprecedented opportunities to harness the power of technology and innovation to tell compelling stories about the environment and engage audiences in meaningful ways. From interactive multimedia features and virtual reality experiences to data visualisations and social media campaigns, journalists are finding creative ways to bring complex environmental issues to life and inspire action. By leveraging the latest tools and platforms, journalists can reach new audiences, spark conversations, and mobilise communities to take concrete steps towards a more sustainable future.

Story must be told

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2024, UNESCO launched the ‘This story must be told’ campaign, spotlighting the contributions of journalists and photojournalists in unveiling stories that deserve to be told. The climate and biodiversity crisis are not only affecting the environment and ecosystems but also impacting the lives of countless individuals worldwide.

“The stories of turmoil and grief deserve to be known and shared. While not always picturesque, these narratives can even stir discomfort, yet it is through awareness that change becomes possible. Illuminating the crisis is the first step towards a solution,” stated a media statement by UNESCO.

“That is why the role of journalists is crucial. It is through their work, their courage, and their perseverance that we can know what is happening across the planet. They work on the frontlines of our collective struggle for our planet’s well-being and liveable conditions,” it stated.Top of Form

Belgian photojournalist Alain Schroeder has been working in the industry for over four decades. First as a sports photographer in the 80s, then shooting books and editorial pieces in art and human stories.

“If we, photojournalists, do not show the reality of their lives, who else will do it? It will be too easy for the authorities to hide or ignore their situation,” said Mr Schroeder.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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