Guinean journalist Lai Baldé has been threate- led press report, with names and facts, that
ned. Egyptian blogger Tamer Mabrouk has sparks an act of physical aggression or coer-
been sued. Russian journalist Grigory Pasko cion. This is what happened to Mikhail
has just spent four years in prison. His Uzbek Beketov, who was beaten nearly to death by
colleague, Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov, has just local government thugs who did not like his
been given a 10-year jail sentence. Mikhail coverage of a plan to build a motorway
Beketov, another Russian journalist, has lost a through a Russian forest.
leg and several fingers as a result of an assault.
Bulgarian reporter Maria Nikolaeva was The assailants are not always who you might
threatened with having acid thrown in her expect. In most cases, the violence is the work
face. Filipino journalist Joey Estriber has been of thugs in the pay of criminal entrepreneurs
missing since 2006… What do these journa- or corrupt politicians. But in some countries,
lists and many others have in common? They as Reporters Without Borders has found, the
are or were covering environmental issues in local population paradoxically often supports
countries where it is dangerous to do so. those responsible for deforestation or pollu-
ting factories although it is the most direct
There is a lot at stake in the environment. The victim. The reason is nonetheless obvious.
first step in protecting nature is to carry out Those who get rich by despoiling resources
a detailed survey of the state of the resources are able, in the process, to provide work to
who expose environmental issues
and the way they are used. On the basis of those in most need. As a result, combating
this analysis – in which the press plays a signi- deforestation and pollution is often difficult
ficant role – political decision-makers can and thankless work.
then establish rules and norms for economic
actors and the public. The gathering of infor- The fight is all the more unequal for usually
mation alone is threatening for many compa- being waged in countries where all the machi-
nies, organised crime groups, governments nery of state seems to be an accomplice to
The dangers for journalists
and the various kinds of intermediaries that the crimes and where the judicial apparatus,
profit from misuse of the environment. when it exists, does not play its role. Most
Environmental concerns complicate their cases linked to the environment never reach
plans. As a result, investigative journalists and a conclusion in the courts. You can even say
environmental activists are seen as an unwan- that most journalists are on their own when
ted menace and even as enemies to be physi- it comes to defending themselves. Hence the
cally eliminated. importance of making this struggle known
and mobilising public opinion in its support.
In many countries – especially, but not only,
those that are not democracies – journalists
who specialise in the environment are on the Depletion of natural resources –
front line of a new war. The violence to which a sensitive issue everywhere
they are subjected concerns us all. It reflects
the new issues that have assumed an enor- Natural resources are not inexhaustible.
mous political and geostrategic importance. What is true underground is also true on the
surface. The forest can regrow, but the forests
The conflicts between journalists and pollu- that man is replanting today will never be as
ters are too many and too varied to be listed. biologically rich as the primary forests that
Sometimes a crisis can be sparked by no more are hundreds of thousands of years old.
than a journalist’s arrival at a sensitive loca- Hence the importance of conserving them.
tion where his presence is not wanted. In sou-
thern China, for example, foreign journalists That is what Lúcio Flávio Pinto, the founder
have been chased out of villages where most and editor of Jornal Pessoal, a Brazilian
of the world’s discarded computers are strip- bimonthly based in Belém, in the northern
ped apart in an environmentally disastrous state of Pará, tried to do. He published a
manner. series of reports about deforestation in the
Amazon. As a result, 33 lawsuits were brought
In other cases, it is the publication of a detai- against him. Lai Baldé, radio Bombolom-FM’s