“A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the Environmental Crisis”

Today, Guyana joins the rest of the world in observing World Press Freedom Day themed “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the Environmental Crisis.” This theme highlights the pivotal role of Journalists in addressing environmental challenges facing the world. Through its reporting, the media is a catalyst for change and public discourse on this most crucial issue.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres in his message has said that the world is going through an unprecedented environmental emergency, which poses an existential threat to this and future generations, noting that people need to know about this – and Journalists and media workers have a key role in informing and educating them.
“Local, national, and global media outlets can highlight stories about the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and environmental injustice. Through their work, people come to understand the plight of our planet, and are mobilised and empowered to take action for change. Media workers also document environmental degradation. And they provide evidence of environmental vandalism that helps to hold those responsible to account. It is no surprise that some powerful people, companies, and institutions will stop at nothing to prevent environmental Journalists from doing their jobs. Media freedom is under siege. And environmental journalism is an increasingly dangerous profession.”
He also reminded that around the world, media workers are risking their lives trying to bring news on everything from war to democracy.
“I am shocked and appalled by the high number of Journalists killed in Israeli military operations in Gaza. The United Nations recognises the invaluable work of Journalists and media professionals to ensure that the public is informed and engaged. Without facts, we cannot fight mis- and disinformation. Without accountability, we will not have strong policies in place. Without press freedom, we won’t have any freedom. A free press is not a choice, but a necessity. Our World Press Freedom Day is very important. And so, I call on Governments, the Private Sector and civil society to join us in reaffirming our commitment to safeguarding press freedom and the rights of Journalists and media professionals around the world.”
Freedom of expression is not only enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but is listed as a fundamental right in many of the constitutions in the Caribbean.
Locally and around the world, the media has a crucial responsibility to act as a watchdog to protect public interest against malpractice and to create public awareness. As the fourth estate, exchangeable with the fourth pillar of democracy, the media’s role is to act against injustice, oppression, transgressions, and prejudice in society.
Freedoms that Guyanese have come to enjoy over time did not come easily. Some unfortunately paid with their lives in the struggles for their attainment.
We, therefore, welcomed the World Press Freedom Day message by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and European Union diplomats in Guyana, who said in a joint statement: “…Journalists, therefore, find themselves in a pivotal position, where their pen and their words can influence the hearts and minds of citizens in the high-stakes global environmental conversation. Freedom of expression is essential, allowing Journalists the ability to deliver the facts about climate change and related issues freely and fairly, without influence or intimidation as climate research, climate talks, and climate action progress.”
The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and European Union diplomats in Guyana also stressed: “A misrepresentation of facts and figures, whether deliberate or accidental, can have damaging effects, manipulating public perception (locally and internationally) of the environmental situation. This can in turn affect public perception of a Government’s response and use of funds during an environmental crisis.”
We welcome their call for Journalists to maintain integrity in their work and to continue to be curious and enquire.