Pacific journalists are ‘world’s eyes and ears’ on the climate crisis, says EU envoy

The World Press Freedom event held at USP’s Laucala Campus on Friday included a panel discussion by editors and CSO representatives on the theme – Fiji and the Pacific situation.


Journalists in the Pacific region play an important role as the “eyes and ears on the ground” when it comes to reporting the climate crisis, according to the European Union’s Ambassador to the Pacific, Barbara Plinkert.

Speaking at the University of the South Pacific (USP) on Friday for World Press Freedom Day, Ms Plinkert said this year’s theme, “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the environmental crisis,” served as a call to action.

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“So, I understand this year’s World Press Freedom Day as a call to action, and a unique opportunity to highlight the role that Pacific journalists can play leading global conversations on issues that impact us all, like climate and the environment.

“Here in the Pacific, you know better than almost anywhere in the world what climate change looks and feels like and what are the risks that lie ahead,” Ms Plinkert said.

She said reporting stories on climate change are Pacific stories adding, “with journalists like you sharing these stories with the world, the impact will be amplified.”

“Just imagine how much more powerful the messages for global climate action are when they have real faces and real stories attached to them,” she said.

Reflecting on the theme, Ms Plinkert recognised that there are “immense personal risk” journalists face in reporting the truth.

According to Ms Plinkert, an astounding 99 journalists and media workers were killed last year, the highest death toll since 2015. Hundreds more were imprisoned worldwide, she said, “just for doing their jobs”.

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“Women journalists bear a disproportionate burden,” the ambassador said, with more than 70 per cent facing online harassments threats and gender-based violence. Ms Plinkert called it “a stain on our collective commitment to human rights and equality”.

“We must vehemently condemn all attacks on those who wield the pen as their only weapon in the battle for truth,” she declared.

The European Union, she said, was strengthening their support for media freedom by adopting the so-called Anti SLAPP directive which stands for strategic lawsuits against public participation.

Ms Plinkert said the directive would safeguard journalists from such lawsuits designed to censor reporting on issues of public interest.

Additionally, the European Parliament adopted the European Media Freedom Act which, according to Ms Plinkert, “introduce measures aimed at protecting journalists and media providers from political interference”.

Image: Ministry of Environment and Climate Change permanent secretary Dr Sivendra Michael, left, and the EU Ambassador to the Pacific H.E Barbara Plinkert, join in the celebrations (Picture: VENIANA WILLY)

In the Pacific, the EU is funding projects in the Solomon Islands such as the ‘Building Voices for Accountability’, the ambassador said, adding it was “one of many EU-funded projects supporting journalists globally”.

The World Press Freedom event held at USP’s Laucala Campus on Friday included a panel discussion by editors and CSO representatives on the theme – Fiji and the Pacific situation.

The EU ambassador was one of the chief guests at the event, including Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretary General Henry Puna. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change permanent secretary Dr. Sivendra Michael was the keynote speaker.

Ms Plinkert has served as the EU’s Ambassador to Fiji the Pacific since 2023 replacing Sujiro Seam. Prior to her appointment, Ms Plinkert was the head of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Southeast Asia Division based in Brussels, Belgium.

Contributing Author: Kaneta Naimatau is a third-year journalism student at the University of the South Pacific.


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