Journalism In the Face of the Environmental Crisis – World Press Freedom Day!

Did you know that the World Press Freedom Day is observed on the 3rd of May every year? The day is observed by UNESCO and marked to remind societies and the governments of nations of the importance of freedom of the press and their duties to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression. This right is enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

World Press Freedom Day is a day to evaluate press freedom, defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. This day also marks the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration which is a statement of free press principles put together by some African journalists in Windhoek in 1991.

The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Journalism in The Face of The Environmental Crisis.” This year’s theme was selected to discuss the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the current global environmental crisis.

This year’s theme couldn’t have been chosen at a better time. The climate and biodiversity crisis are not only affecting the environment and ecosystems but also the lives of billions of people around the world. Their various stories of upheaval and loss deserve to be known and shared. It is only by sharing such stories that we can know what’s happening on our planet and only our journalists can share such stories. Exposing the crisis is the first step to solving it.

It is through the work of our journalists; done with courage and perseverance that we can know what is happening across the planet. They work on the frontlines of our collective fight for the health of our planet and our struggle for liveable lives. On this day, it is necessary to recognize and celebrate their work in managing the environmental crisis and shaping a better future for the planet.

World Press Freedom Day will not be adequately observed without talking about how the lives and properties of journalists, especially in Nigeria have been endangered. Nigeria has been recognized by Reporters Without Borders as one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists, who are often monitored, attacked and arbitrarily arrested, as was the case during the 2023 elections. Reporters Without Borders ranked Nigeria 120 out of 180 in the world press freedom index. Press freedom is on the decline in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, not a lot of people have been arrested, prosecuted, or held accountable for these killings over the years. Jonathan Rozen, a Senior Researcher at CPJ once stated “When journalists are attacked in the course of their work, it is far too rare that those responsible are held accountable.” The Government needs to do more in terms of protecting the rights of journalists. Another challenge faced by the Nigerian media is the criminalization of journalism. This remains a major concern and a threat to the freedom of the press. One can unarguably state that freedom of the press is one right that is not guaranteed in this country.

Cybercrime laws have been abused and used consistently as the basis for the criminalization and apprehension of journalists in Nigeria. We have also seen the numerous breaches of the journalists’ rights to dignity and private life by continued efforts to seize and go through their devices, use of spyware and digital forensic technology all in a bid to figure out their sources and extract information from their devices.

On this day, we at Sarauta, celebrate all the journalists telling our stories and inspiring change around the world. We celebrate our brave journalists who have endangered their lives and used all resources available to them to unravel mysteries and expose evil in society. We celebrate journalists who have worked behind the scenes and on the frontline over the years to voice the opinions of citizens and the nation at large. Your outstanding reports and media innovations are shaping a better future for our country.

There are a couple of ways you can observe the World Press Freedom Day. Here are some ideas:

  • Read a book or an article on press freedom. It would be nice to read one authored by a journalist.
  • Support a local independent media outlet today. Purchase their newspaper, share their link, or do something to improve their visibility.
  • Follow a journalist on social media to learn more about their work, and leave a kind comment under one of their posts.
  • Attend a press freedom event holding in your community. (Simply search for events on Google or Eventbrite)
  • Donate to organizations that support press freedom.
  • Write a letter to your legislators or the Minister of Information on the importance of press freedom. Suggest sponsoring specific bills that will guarantee the protection and freedom of journalists/media personnel in Nigeria.
  • Share stories of journalists doing amazing work around the world with your friends, and social media contacts.

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