Safety and Security for Environmental Journalists

Do not walk sign
Safety and Security for Environmental Journalists

Environmental reporting has been described by Eric Freedman, chair of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University, as “one of the most hazardous beats in journalism.” That’s because reporters covering the environment often tackle sensitive issues or stories involving influential businesses, criminal activities or high-risk incidents, like land-use conflicts.

The perils come at a time when press freedom globally is under attack, increasing fears among journalists, according to the latest index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

“The number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media,” RSF says in the introduction to its 2019 report.

In recognition of the growing threats facing environmental reporters, the EJN started conducting workshops on security and safety that provide participants with a better understanding of the threats they’re likely to face, from physical harassment or assault to online risks, such as hacking or invasion of information privacy, and what they can do to protect themselves.

In these two videos, security trainer and former journalist Red Batario, who runs the Center for Community Journalism in the Philippines, talks about some of the threats currently facing journalists and offers five tips on how they and their colleagues can better protect themselves. 



EJN has introduced more activities around safety and security in recent years, based largely on feedback from the journalists in our network and on work carried out as part of a project supported by the Environmental Defenders Fund.

During the safety training at EJN’s 2019 Training of Trainers in the Philippines, several of the reporters in attendance shared their own experiences dealing with safety and security challenges, and the security experts who led the day-long sessions offered tips on how they and their colleagues can better protect themselves.

Watch them talk about their experiences in the videos below.

Filipina journalist Imelda Abano talks about the threats facing women reporters.


Samison Pareti, EJN's former content coordinator in Fiji, also manages a monthly news magazine, Island Business, that covers Fiji and the Pacific Islands. In this interview, Pareti talks about his detention by the Fiji police in February 2018.


During past gathering of trainers, reporters and EJN staff, participants identified some of the main threats facing environmental journalists and the ways EJN could improve journalism safety. 

The challenges they identified include everything from physical attacks or threats to the hacking of websites and social media accounts as well as lawsuits, tax audits, internet harassment and other forms of intimidation, with freelance journalists and those working in remote regions among the most vulnerable.

Journalists said they thought physical threats were highest for reporters covering illegal fishing or logging stories. Broaching a topic that is not often discussed, many admitted to self-censorship, particularly when reporting on powerful businesses or individuals.

Additional resources

Check out our safety training guides for the Philippines and Indonesia. While they don't focus specifically on the environment, they do provide guidance for reporters covering crime, corruption and disasters; advise them on how to prepare for risky reporting and how to stay safe on assignment; offer tips on dealing with trauma and stress; and include brief guides on rights and duties.


Banner image by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

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