Frontline reporting and social media provide needed protection to environmental defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

Share This Page

The German newspaper Deutsche Welle has published this article on the role journalists play in bringing to light environmental destruction, the threats faced by human rights defenders, and the risks faced by frontline reporters, particularly Indigenous reporters.

In the article, Christoph Dreyer of Reporters without Borders (RSF) highlights: “In some Latin American countries, the dominant traditional media are heavily controlled by the economic and political elites. They often hold back from critical reporting on environmental issues because it clashes with their interests.”

As such, the role of environmental justice reporters and Indigenous journalists can be crucial in the telling of stories to the world. RSF warns that without them the stories would not be told and the environmental destruction will continue.

Kathrin Wessendorf, head of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, notes: “Journalists can bring the human rights violations often associated with environmental destruction to the attention of the wider public. This, in turn, can lead to international solidarity and put pressure on governments or companies.”

The article also notes the work of Colombian journalist Andres Bermudez Lievano. He is one of the editors of Tierra de Resistentes (Land of Resistants), an investigative data journalism project available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

The scope of their work includes Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

This 45-minute video (in English) with Bermudez Lievano and Alexa Vélez Zuazo (Mongabay Latin America) discusses the role of visibilizing environmental destruction and the threats and risks faced by environmental defenders and journalists.

Bermudez Lievano says: “Even though Latin America is still a dangerous continent for journalists, …it’s the communities that are really at the forefront of risks, it’s them who really need our accompaniment, who need our reporting, who need our visibility.”

The interview also highlights the role that can be played by social media as a safety tool.

Last month, the CBC reported that Jolene Marr, a fisher from Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, believes that social media, live streaming and documenting injustices are crucial tools for Mi’kmaq defenders to protect themselves.

Marr live streamed the recent attack by settler fishers on a lobster compound being used by Mi’kmaq fishers. The video has more than 23,000 views on Facebook and significantly drew attention to the police not intervening to stop this violence.

Important sources of reporting on Indigenous land defence and water protection struggles in this country include Brandi Morin, Jorge Barrera, Maureen Googoo, Ka’nhehsí:io Deer, Angel Moore, Trina Roache and Christopher Curtis.

Notably, reporters Justin Brake and Karl Dockstader have both been criminalized for their coverage of land defence struggles, at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam and 1492 Land Back Lane camp respectively.

Reporter, photographer, and documentarian Michael Toledano has also focused on environmental pollution and Indigenous land defence, notably drawing attention to the Wet’suwet’en struggle against the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on their territory. This 45-second Twitter video shows the RCMP racially profiling Toledano as he was documenting a ceremony by Wet’suwet’en women defenders.

PBI-Canada posts daily articles for our readers that strive to contextualize human rights struggles in Latin America accompanied by PBI field projects that are often only available in Spanish or on social media. We also try to amplify the stories of Indigenous land defence struggles in this country through a lens of understanding the dynamics of similar resistance movements in Latin America.

We also post regularly on the PBI-Canada Twitter account and publish blogs about militarism and human rights struggles on the independent media website

Photo: Indigenous journalist Abelardo Liz was killed on August 13 by the Colombian Army while covering a campesino protest. He was hit by a bullet in the chest and abdomen when soldiers began evicting Indigenous campesinos from a farm.

Share This Page
Categories: News Updates


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *