Environmental reporters in Latin America face threats and censorship

By Maira Magro

Journalists who cover environmental degradation are increasingly subject to threats and attacks, according to a new Reporters without Borders investigative report, “High-Risk Subjects: Deforestation and Pollution” (PDF file). Its publication is timed to coincide with World Environment Day (June 5).

The Paris-based group focuses on examples of repression in eight countries, including three in Latin America:

*Two cases from Brazil: the journalist Lúcio Flávio Pinto, editor of the bimonthly newspaper Jornal Pessoal (Personal Newspaper), faced dozens of lawsuits for his coverage of environmental degradation and land fraud in the Amazon; and European documentary filmmaker José Huerta was sued eight times for this film, which details the effects of a tourism program on a fishing village in Ceará state.

*Argentine journalist María Márquez, based in Andalgalá, Catamarca, received death threats after criticizing a mining project run by Canadian multinational Yamana Gold.

*In El Salvador, Gustavo Marcelo Rivera and Ramiro Rivera Gómez, activists associated with Radio Victoria in Cabañas department, were killed after openly opposing Canadian mining company Pacific Rim’s operations. In this video, other workers at the station report threats and intimidation.

“Behind each of these threats and attacks, there were big corporations, criminal gangs or government officials who had been corrupted by money from mining or logging,” Reporters without Borders says.

The full report is available in EnglishFrench, and Spanish. Also see 15 more cases of threats to environmental journalists in last year’s report, “The dangers for journalists who expose environmental issues.”

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.